MSU reports first virus case, postpones commencement, extends online classes

Casey Harrison
The Detroit News

Michigan State University announced on Saturday its first case of coronavirus related to the university was confirmed amid news the university was extending online-only classes through the rest of the semester and postponing spring commencement.

All classes and instruction will continue to be offered in virtual settings through the conclusion of the semester, including finals, according to an email sent out by university president Samuel Stanley. MSU said on its website it will make "every effort" to reschedule commencement.

Students do not need to plan for the possibility of returning to campus by April 20, as MSU originally announced this week, Stanley said in the email to the university community.

The colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine have "unique requirements to complete" because their students are involved in providing care and students, staff and faculty in those areas will receive additional guidance from their respective deans, according to the email.

Students are strongly encouraged to return to their permanent residences, but campus will remain open, Stanley said. Students living on campus will receive follow-up information from residence halls.

University employees are encouraged to work remote or telecommute when possible, Stanley said. 

Also in the email, Stanley said he is "very concerned and troubled by the photos and media coverage I've seen of crowded student lines at local East Lansing bars over the past few days." 

"The spread of the novel coronavirus is very serious, and our students need to understand the critical importance of social distancing and how the virus can spread quickly in large crowds," he said.

Michigan State University president Dr. Samuel Stanley.

The email also said that the university is in constant contact with health and law enforcement officials about how to prevent the further spread of the disease and stop "irrational behaviors."

MSU was one of the state's many public universities this week to halt in-person classes due to COVID-19. Others included the University of Michigan, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University, Oakland University, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, Michigan Technological University and Lawrence Technological University and a number of community colleges statewide.

UM on Friday also announced that it would cancel its spring commencement. Officials said they have taken steps to tentatively reschedule the April 26 ceremonies to Aug. 16 at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center in Flint but that date could change.

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state was closing all K-12 schools until April 6. Whitmer this week also enacted an executive order that banned gatherings of more than 250 people

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