‘We must err on the side of caution’: WU suspends in-person instruction for remainder of spring semester in response to COVID-19, tells students not to come back to campus

and | News Editors

University administrators instructed all students on the Danforth and Medical campuses not to return to campus after spring break due to concern over the spread of COVID-19. Spring break will be extended to March 23, allowing an extra week for administrators to manage a transition to online learning that will begin after break.

Rory Mather | Student Life

Washington University announced that spring break will be extended to March 23. After that, all classes will be held online until April 30.


All Danforth and Medical Campus classes, including studios and laboratory classes, will be moved online. There will not be any in-person classes until at least April 30. Students should expect to hear from their academic deans about specific details for proceeding with online instruction before the end of the extended spring break period.

“We can’t predict how any of this will turn out, and we won’t know until later if the path we’re taking now will have been the right course of action,” Martin wrote in the announcement. “But based on what we know now and where we think this could be headed, we feel that we must err on the side of caution and do all we can to reduce our risk.”

The University had previously announced that students who had visited locations with an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure must self-quarantine for 14 days and receive medical clearance from Habif Health and Wellness Center before returning to campus, in an email sent March 8. Students who had visited Westchester County, N.Y. or Seattle/King County, Wash. over the break were asked not to return to campus in an email to students and families residing in those areas, March 10.

Undergraduate students who remained in University housing for spring break are required to move out by March 15. Students who left campus for break are not allowed to return to campus to receive their belongings at this point. All students living in University housing are expected to receive an email from Residential Life today for instructions on how to receive their belongings.

A cancellation of classes for such a long period of time is unprecedented in the University’s history. However, over the last few days, universities such as Saint Louis University, the University of Washington and Harvard University have all made similar decisions, asking students not to return to campus while moving classes online.

The University will continue to operate through the campus suspension, and faculty, staff and trainees will come to work as usual.

The University did not provide a specific solution for students who rely on their on-campus jobs as a source of income, but suggested that these students contact Student Financial Services in order to work out a solution.

“I want to be up front and say that we do not yet have all the answers to the questions that you likely will have at this point,” Martin wrote. “Our team is continually monitoring the situation and working through plans for managing our operations moving forward.”

Martin did not offer any specific plans for how the University will operate after April 30, but remains optimistic about how the University community will deal with the crisis. The University has set up a hotline at 314-935-8300 or 888-234-2863 for students with questions about how to proceed.

“I have no doubt we will weather the days and weeks ahead with competence, grace and compassion for one another,” Martin wrote. “We’re a place that puts people first, and I’m confident that one day we’ll look back on this moment and see this as an example of how we put that promise into practice.”

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