Coronavirus: Updates on the pandemic




The situation surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing moment by moment. As of Wednesday, March 11,  the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a pandemic.  According to the CDC on Wednesday, there were 938 total cases of coronavirus in the United States and 29 total deaths. The CDC releases updated numbers each day at 12 p.m. ET.

In the wake of Iowa’s first cases of COVID-19 (the number of confirmed cases currently stands at 13) and multiple universities nationwide transitioning to online or distance learning, UNI administration released a campus email on Wednesday afternoon stating that classes would be moved online until at least April 3.

We are requesting faculty work closely with students in order to continue coursework in an uninterrupted manner during this time,” the email stated. “Faculty members should communicate with their students as soon as they determine next steps in arranging the delivery of their instruction and course materials.”

Although classes will be held online, dining centers and residence halls will remain open, as will facilities such as the Registrar, Financial Aid, Rod Library, WRC and Student Health Clinic. Internships, student teaching and other off-campus learning experiences are also not impacted. Student employees will still be able to work their on-campus jobs, but if they decide not to work, their job will still be available when on-campus classes resume.

Operations at Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC) will also continue as scheduled, per a campus-wide email on Tuesday, March 10, amid increased  safety measures such as disinfecting.

“We feel a strong responsibility that the shows must go on, not just for ourselves, but to be that community gathering spot, the town hall, to provide that comfort and space,” GBPAC officials wrote.

Patrons who do not feel well or who would prefer not to attend performances at this time are encouraged to stay home, and will be offered a full credit for future shows or a refund.

The UNI administration’s decision to transition to online learning until April 3 mirrors similar decisions made earlier Wednesday by Drake University, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. Grinnell College had previously announced on Tuesday that the remainder of its semester would be conducted online and students will be required to leave campus by March 23, although they can petition for a need to stay in extenuating circumstances. Similar campus closures have occurred at many universities nationwide, from Stanford to Harvard.

Additionally, until further notice, the Board of Regents will be extending last week’s international travel ban by seven days each Monday, effective Monday, March 9, providing a continuous 30-day window until conditions improve. Domestic travel is an institutional-level decision at this time.

The campus closures in Iowa come as cases of COVID-19 continue to mount statewide.

As the NI went to print on Sunday, March 8, Governor Kim Reynolds confirmed the first three cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, three Johnson County citizens who had returned from an Egyptian cruise.

On Monday, March 9, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed an additional five cases, bringing the total to eight and prompting Reynolds to sign a disaster proclamation.

As of Wednesday, March 11, that number has increased to 13 cases, 12 in Johnson County and one in Pottawattamie County.

“The reality now is, COVID-19 is now here and we can expect the number of tests and the number of positive cases will continue to increase in the days to come,” Reynolds said Tuesday evening. “While this news is concerning, it’s not cause for alarm. I want to assure Iowans that we are prepared, and we are taking additional steps to ensure access to resources to effectively manage the situation.”

On Wednesday, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) admitted its first COVID-19 patient, who is in critical condition, according to an email sent to university faculty and staff from UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran.

It was unclear if the patient was one of the 13 previously confirmed cases or a new case.