SALT LAKE CITY – Utah State University President Noelle Cockett joined members of the Utah Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday to announce steps being taken by USU to slow the spread of the disease and safeguard higher education students.
In a press conference at the Utah Emergency Operations Center at the State Capitol, Cockett emphasized that, as the state’s land grant university, USU has a special responsibility to maintain its statewide educational mission while still protecting its campus communities.
In a brief statement, Cockett explained that USU has cancelled all university-sponsored events both on- and off-campus; cancelled all non-essential university-funded travel; and, will transfer all instruction to online formats in lieu of face-to-face classes.
In a public statement released in Logan while Cockett was speaking in Salt Lake City, USU officials said the goal of the university’s proactive steps was to help public health officials “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infection.
In Salt Lake, Dr. Mike Good of the University of Utah Health System, said that rate of infection during a traditional flu season is like a low wave that seldom threatens to overwhelm the capacity of public and private health care services. Given the rate of COVID-19 infection seen overseas, however, Dr. Good said that the coronavirus could be like a tsunami wave unless the spread of the disease can be slowed through social distancing and quarantine efforts.
Cockett said that moving all USU academic courses to online delivery will be critical to the university’s effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus to the population of its three residential campuses and other facilities.
The first step in that transition will be cancelling all classes from Friday, Mar. 13 through Tuesday, Mar. 17 to give faculty members time to move their classes into the university’s already existing online learning environment. In general, online instruction in lieu of face-to-face classroom teaching will begin on Wednesday, March 18, but USU officials added that the university will communicate directly with students when their courses are ready to resume.
Although normal Residence Life events have been cancelled through at least April 8, university officials say that essential services will still be available through the end of the spring semester. For that reason, USU Housing residents are being encouraged to remain on campus.
The USU statement emphasizes that the university will remain open and that employees should continue with business as usual. But faculty, staff and student are advised to be mindful of maintaining social distancing and to avoid gatherings of more than 20 people.
USU employees who are at greater risk of complications from coronavirus infection (e.g. those over 60 years of age and/or with compromised immune systems) are being advised to work with their supervisors to make accommodations that might improve their safety.
All employees who fall ill are also being encouraged to stay home, rest, recover and take other steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
AUDIO: USU President Noelle Cockett Press Conference on Coronavirus