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Harvard tells students not to return after spring break as colleges across U.S. take action on coronavirus

Coronavirus could impact spring break plans
Coronavirus could impact spring break plans 03:19

Harvard University has joined the growing list of institutions that are taking strong measures to stem the spread of coronavirus. In a message from university president Larry Bacow sent to students on Tuesday, Harvard has asked students to not return to campus after spring recess in a bid to "limit exposure to the disease among members of our community."

Students have been asked to completely move out of their campus houses and dorms by Sunday, March 15, the start of spring break. Instead of returning to class a week later on Monday, March 23, the university will offer online instruction for graduate and undergraduate students for the rest of the semester.

"I know it will be difficult to leave your friends and your classrooms. We are doing this not just to protect you but also to protect other members of our community who may be more vulnerable to this disease than you are," said Bacow.

The university says the decision "was not made lightly," but aims to "minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings." Despite asking students not to return, the campus will remain open, but Harvard is discouraging any non-essential gatherings of more than 25 people.

For students who cannot afford to go home or have nowhere to go for the rest of the semester, the university advised that they reach out to their resident dean. 

Other colleges and universities across the country are also making difficult decisions about how to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

On Tuesday, New York University announced it will move to remote classes beginning tomorrow; once spring break concludes on March 22, classes will continue to be taken remotely until March 27. Residence halls will remain open, but students leaving campus have been asked to take all of their study resources with them. 

American University also announced Tuesday that it will shift to online classes for three weeks following spring break, but the campus will remain open. "Critical functions for teaching, research, and other services will continue," the school said. 

Princeton University has also moved to temporary virtual instruction, and the University of Southern California is advising students not to travel internationally.

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