U of C suspends gatherings of more than 100 people; Columbia, Loyola announce possible coronavirus exposure

College and universities continue to grapple with how to protect their students and staff by limiting large gatherings, doing “deep cleanings” and canceling study-abroad programs.

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Hull Gate, the stone entrance that leads into the heart of the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

Hull Gate, the stone entrance that leads into the heart of the University of Chicago campus located in Hyde Park.

Victor Hilitski / Sun-Times

University of Chicago officials have announced that they are trying to limit large groups of people commingling on campus by suspending university-sponsored gatherings and events of more than 100 people, in addition to cancelling all study-abroad programs in efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The announcement came the same day as Columbia College and Loyola University announced that people connected to their campus’ may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.

The coronavirus outbreak has caused institutions of higher education to rethink how of their communities interact in order to limit potential student and faculty exposure to the virus by ending study-abroad programs and limiting school trips and cancelling in-person classes.

U of C limits gatherings, suspends study-abroad programs

The University of Chicago initially moved its spring quarter program “Hong Kong: Colonizations” from Hong Kong to London, but that program — as well as all other study abroad programs — have since been canceled by the university as it seeks to limit international travel, Provost Ka Yee C. Lee wrote in an email to students Tuesday.

Seeking to limit exposure at the university’s Hyde Park campus, the school also announced it would suspend university-sponsored gatherings and events of more than 100 people through April 15, which officials said could cause previously scheduled arts and sporting programs to be held with limits on audience size, though classes were not affected and would continue as scheduled.

“Events with fewer than 100 attendees, and those involving vulnerable populations, should be approached with care based on the changing situation,” Lee wrote.

The school was additionally asking schools, divisions and departments to postpone on-campus visits.

The university also warned students who planned to travel over spring break that “evolving public health measures could make it difficult to return to campus in a timely way,” and advised the school’s community members to bring any items with them that they may need if their return to campus is delayed.

Coronavirus exposure at Columbia College, Loyola

Also Tuesday, Loyola University and Columbia College each announced that a person connected to the school may have had contact with a person with COVID-19.

Both schools said they no confirmed cases of coronavirus on campus.

Columbia College officials said the person may have had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 last week at an off-campus location, but did not say whether the person was a student or employee of the college.

“The individual associated with Columbia is consulting with medical professionals, has been asymptomatic for more than a week, and remains off-campus to monitor their health,” college officials wrote in a letter.

College officials cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that a person being in the same indoor environment as a symptomatic person with COVID-19 would be classified as “low-risk,” but said they have notified anyone on campus with known contact with the individual and did a “deep clean” of any locations where the person may have been.

At Loyola, officials said Tuesday that a student was exposed to a person who is being evaluated for COVID-19 and is awaiting testing results. The student was in isolation on campus, but was doing well, officials said.

Some schools holding classes remotely

The University of Washington in Seattle, located in the earliest and hardest-hit state with 80 confirmed cases, became the first major university to not hold classes or finals for the remainder of the winter quarter, which ends March 20, according to a statement from the school.

Instead, University of Washington instructors have been told to hold classes and exams remotely.

Closer to home, Indiana University in Bloomington made the same decision Tuesday, officials announced in a letter to the community, saying there will be no face-to-face classroom teaching from March 23-April 5. No known cases of COVID-19 have been identified on the campus, but students were encouraged to return home and telecommute.

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