Vanderbilt University cancels classes amid coronavirus concerns


Rachel Wegner
Nashville Tennessean

Published 9:20 PM EDT Mar 9, 2020

The risk for most people of being exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) is low, according to the CDC. But simple, everyday steps can reduce the chance of catching or spreading respiratory diseases including COVID-19. These include covering your cough or sneeze and thoroughly washing or sanitizing your hands. Call your doctor and stay home if you are sick. Get more information at CDC.gov/coronavirus or contact the Tennessee Department of Health coronavirus information line at 877-857-2945 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily).

Vanderbilt University announced Monday it is canceling classes for the rest of the week amid concerns about the coronavirus. It is also canceling all in-person classes starting March 16 through at least March 30. 

The university will adopt distance learning and other options during that time.

A news release from interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente said the decision came after the school learned several students returned to campus who have since reported being exposed to an individual who tested positive Monday for the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

“The individual who tested positive is being treated at home and did not return to campus,” Wente said.

Wente said the move is based on a “desire to protect the health and safety of our community from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).”

► Coronavirus impact in Tennessee:  Latest news and updates as virus affects state

Vanderbilt student contracts coronavirus

Last week, Vanderbilt University confirmed a student who was traveling internationally for a study abroad program had contracted coronavirus. The student didn’t return to Nashville and is currently undergoing treatment in their hometown outside of Tennessee. The student hasn’t been publicly identified.

Vanderbilt is not the first major university to cancel classes. According to CNN, several schools in California, New York, Washington and New Jersey have suspended classes, or replaced those classes with online lectures, in the past few weeks. 

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Vanderbilt will remain open during the cancellations to accommodate students who need to remain on campus and will offer limited or reduced services, the release said. Students can expect to hear from their respective deans or faculty instructors with further instructions.

“The university will actively review the situation during this time to determine if and when in-person classes may resume,” Wente said. “We may extend the alternative learning approach through the end of the Spring semester if necessary. We will keep in touch with you every step of the way.”

School events, travel canceled 

The university also announced the suspension of all university-sponsored non-athletics events and gatherings through April 30. This includes events sponsored by registered student organizations.

Additionally, it restricted any university-sponsored international travel effective Tuesday, March 10, through April 3.

“We recognize that these actions create significant challenges for students, faculty, staff and families, and we ask for your understanding as we respond to this unprecedented public health issue,” the release said. 

More information can be found at vu.edu/coronavirus. 

Coronavirus spreads worldwide

COVID-19 originated in China but has since spread to most of the world, infecting more than 109,000 people and killing about 3,800, according to the World Health Organization. In Tennessee, four people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday and at least one of them is hospitalized.

The virus spreads similarly to the flu but has a much higher rate of death. Medical experts advise the public take commonplace precautions to prevent the spread of the disease: Wash your hands, try to avoid touching your face and, if you get sick, stay home and contact your doctor.

Brett Kelman contributed to this report.

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