COVID-19 update: UMN suspends all on-campus classes through end of semester, plus graduation

An illustration depicts the virus sphere with spikes on the outer surface.
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
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ST PAUL -- In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Minnesota is cancelling all in-person classes and activities on all campuses for the remainder of the spring semester, including graduation ceremonies.

According to a Monday, March 16 written statement by UMN President Joan Gabel, all courses for the remainder of the semester will be taught via remote instruction, away from the University's five campuses in the Twin Cities, Rochester, Duluth, Morris and Crookston in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by exposure to coronavirus.

With spring break ending soon , Gabel asked students not to return to campus "if you have a safe alternative, be it with friends or family." She said the University will still provide housing for "students who truly have no other alternatives," but that students remaining on campus may be consolidated into one central facility to minimize staff requirements.

"We recognize that not all students can return home, but again, if you have alternative housing options we strongly encourage you to examine their viability for your housing needs," she said.

University buildings will have limited, key-card-required access, and libraries will be closed.


Gabel said the University is "exploring" potential room and board reimbursements for students but such plans have not been announced yet, as of Monday afternoon. She also said some employees of the university, including students with on-campus jobs, may have questions about their compensation for the rest of the semester. She did not announce a plan for those employees but said the university "will do everything possible to keep you 'whole' from a compensation standpoint."

All university events for 50 or more people, including spring's commencement ceremonies, are cancelled.

"I know this is incredibly disappointing for so many of you," Gabel wrote. "But your safety is our top priority and given how the COVID-19 issue has quickly evolved in the U.S., it would be irresponsible and may actually become impossible for us to hold such a large and crowded event."

Students still need to apply for graduation as normal, and those who meet requirements will still graduate and receive their degrees in the mail.

University employees are being asked to begin working remotely no later than Wednesday, per Gabel's letter. For those with children who may be home now that K-12 schools are closed statewide, Gabel said the university understands if parents cannot work a full day from home.

"You do not need to take vacation or sick time to make up any perceived difference," she said. "Do what you can, take care of your family, and we will all emerge stronger."

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Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at or 651-290-0707.
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