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University of Minnesota cancels travel, asks faculty to prepare for online classes as COVID-19 spreads

U of M president asks faculty to prepare for remote classes, as UMD, other campuses, are on spring break.

University of Minnesota Duluth
An aerial view of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. (2015 file / News Tribune)

The University of Minnesota is canceling all "non-essential" domestic and international travel and is asking faculty across its five-campus system to prepare to teach classes online as Minnesota officials report the state's third case of COVID-19 , the respiratory illness that develops from the new coronavirus.

In an email to students, faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon, U of M President Joan Gabel said the moves were aimed at "maintaining the health and safety of our University community" and were not made lightly.

"We encourage our faculty to begin preparing to move classroom instruction online, especially for courses where this can be implemented immediately," Gabel said, noting that Duluth, Rochester and Twin Cities campuses are currently on spring break and Crookston and Morris will go on spring break next week.

As of Tuesday, all U of M campuses reported no classes were impacted by COVID-19 and all were being held as normal, according to the university's COVID-19 website .

No cases of COVID-19 have been identified on any U of M campuses.

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The travel restrictions will take effect March 16, and anyone seeking an exception is asked to talk to their supervisor, who must then appeal to the provost.

Events, athletics, housing, dining and transportation at all five campuses are also under "normal operations" right now.

"The University continues to review information and prepare for contingencies around large events on and off campus, as well as a plan for any decision regarding online classes," Gabel said.

On Monday, the College of St. Scholastica announced it was canceling all plans for foreign travel and staff were preparing for remote teaching and learning options if that should become necessary.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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