As Fear of COVID-19 Grows, U Departments Preemptively Announce Transition to Online Classes


On March 11, the University of Utah announced that all classes will transition online for the rest of the semester. A formal decision will take place tomorrow on March 12 at 9 a.m. 

However, some departments have taken the announcement into their own hands.

In an email to English majors and minors sent on March 11 at 3:58 p.m. from the U’s English department, the transition to online classes was confirmed.

“You’ll be receiving an official notification from the University of Utah likely by the end of today,” the email reads. “But internally we were informed this afternoon that all University of Utah classes would be moving to an online format beginning Monday, March 16 for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.”

This email was sent after the U decided to announce their decision at 9 a.m. tomorrow, instead of 5 p.m. today.

Universities around the nation, including Stanford University and Columbia University, have responded to COVID-19 by moving to online courses and closing campuses.

Gov. Herbert declared a state of emergency in Utah after the third case was confirmed in the state. According to the Utah Department of Health, the patient is a male who is “an adult younger than 60, and is currently recovering at home.” 

The University of Utah Hospital has no confirmed cases at the moment but has placed tents ready for patients who have come in contact with COVID-19. 

An email sent out by Housing & Residential Education stated that HRE has an emergency planning team plan implemented to address students who might have possibly come in contact with COVID-19 during spring break travels. 

“These adjustments include supporting meals to go, adjusting housing for students with unique needs stemming from travel, and enhanced facility cleaning,” the email read. “Based on our plan, we have already implemented enhanced facility cleaning efforts and established the HRE Resident Self-Report Form.”

Resident halls will remain open for now. 

“The likelihood of closure is very small,” said Barb Remsburg, director of HRE. “Generally on campus where classes go online, the residence halls remain open. Over half [of the residents] live out of state, and 9% are international.”

Remsburg confirmed that even though the halls will remain open, there will be no financial penalty for those who wish to cancel their housing contracts.

Classes will be canceled on Monday and Tuesday of next week after spring break. According to an email from Darryl Butt, Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, there is a campus-wide effort to move as many classes online.

However, there are classes that are not easily transferable to an online setting, including fine arts classes and medical labs. 

“I’m currently in a medical anatomy lab right now and I’m not exactly sure how that will be able to transition into an online class,” said Sheva Mozafari, a senior honors student studying Integrated Health Science.

Mozafari said that she would be attending a meeting to discuss the transition. 

“Students avoid online classes for a reason. It’s because they don’t learn [best] that way,” Mozafari said.

“So, I do see how that is concerning for a lot of students and whether or not they’ll be able to perform the best of their ability in an online class. But I do also see that this isn’t anyone’s fault. We’re just trying to take the best measures possible here.”


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The headline in this article has been updated to clarify that campus will not close entirely. Instead, in-person classes will move online.

Editor’s note: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are believed to occur between 2 and 14 days after a person is exposed to the disease. If you have these symptoms and have recently come into contact with a person who is known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to an area with community spread of the disease, you should call your doctor. Areas with community spread of COVID-19 are believed to include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Seattle. If you do not have a doctor who you visit regularly, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. Do not go to a healthcare facility without first making arrangements to do so.