Stanford University is escalating its efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus on campus, including now asking undergraduate students to leave campus at the end of the quarter.
Days ago, Stanford became the second major U.S. university to cancel in-person classes to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus; several other California colleges soon followed suit. The university also announced that two undergraduate students who possibly were exposed to the virus are in self-isolation and that a School of Medicine faculty member has tested positive for COVID-19. By March 11, the university announced two additional confirmed cases: one in Stanford Medicine and another on the main campus.
Beginning Monday, March 9, all classes moved online "to the extent feasible" for the last two weeks of the winter quarter, Provost Persis Drell wrote to students on Friday. The university made this decision after "thoughtful consideration," Drell said.
The day before the announcement that classes would move online, the university said it expected regularly scheduled classes to continue through the remainder of the quarter.
By Tuesday, March 10, Stanford announced that classes would not meet in person in spring quarter until further notice and asked all undergraduates to leave campus at the end of the winter quarter (which is March 9-15) if possible. Undergraduate students who have already left or will be leaving at the end of winter quarter "should not plan to return to campus until further notice," the university said on Tuesday.
"Because undergraduates live on our campus in highly communal dormitories and Row houses, with shared bathrooms and dining facilities, we have concluded that reducing the concentration of people in these spaces is essential to helping reduce the risk of virus spread during this next critical phase of COVID-19's evolution," President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote in an update.
On March 12, Stanford announced more extreme restrictions on events and travel: suspending all university-sponsored travel and urging cancellation or postponement of events that involve more than 50 participants -- down from an initial threshold of 150 people -- effective immediately through May 15.
Stanford is not asking graduate students to leave on-campus housing.
Dean Lloyd Minor and Stanford Health Care leadership notified the School of Medicine on Friday of the faculty member, who they said has not been in the work environment since experiencing symptoms. Stanford has followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in this case, they wrote, including notifying people who might have been exposed to the person and requesting that they self-isolate to prevent potential spread of the coronavirus. The clinic where the person worked has been closed for cleaning and was expected to reopen on Monday, they wrote.
Drell separately said Friday that the two undergraduates in self-isolation are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 and have been tested at Stanford Health Care. Both students have moved out of their undergraduate housing, she said.
Since then, other students also have been tested for the virus, Russell Furr, associate vice provost for environmental health & safety, said in a Sunday update. The university is "not aware of any test results that have come back positive for coronavirus among Stanford students, which is welcome news," Furr said.
He added that more people are likely to be tested in the coming days and weeks and that Stanford will not be providing ongoing updates on individual testing.
Stanford enrolls about 7,000 undergraduate students and nearly 8,000 graduate students. Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers can continue their research, including lab activities, unless they are sick, immuno-compromised or have other individual circumstances, the university has said.
For students preparing to leave Palo Alto soon for spring break, the university earlier this week urged them to pack "more heavily than you normally would" and be mindful that a "range of factors may make it difficult for you to travel back."
By Tuesday, Stanford said that undergraduate students who want to remain on campus through spring break and spring quarter can, though "university programming will be quite limited." All undergraduates and co-terms living in undergraduate housing who want to stay on campus must submit a request to the university through an online web form. Key card access to undergraduate residences will be changed to allow access only to students approved to stay on campus.
"It is important for us to know who remains on campus, in part to provide support to you in the case of illness," Stanford said.
Effective Thursday, March 19, all campus Libraries will be physically closed until March 30.
For students who are receiving financial aid and need financial assistance to get home, Stanford will increase their scholarship by one half of the travel allowance that is already in their financial aid package. Students who choose to go home will see their financial aid adjusted to reflect reduced living costs. A frequently asked questions page is available for undergraduate students.
"We know the steps we are now taking represent a major change for our community, and we know not everyone may feel that a given action by the university is needed in their own situation," Tessier-Lavigne said on Tuesday, March 10. "We are working to provide for the needs of our entire community, including the most vulnerable, in an extraordinary moment as we confront a rapidly evolving public health threat."
Stanford Athletics also initially decided to close all competitions to the public through May 15 or until further notice, then on March 12 said all winter and spring sports seasons would be canceled.
Despite these restrictions, the university itself is remaining open "in order to continue fulfilling its mission to the greatest extent possible." Stanford is encouraging employees and managers to work remotely if possible.
A slew of university events have been canceled to stem the potential spread the new coronavirus, including Admit weekend, a major April event for students who have or will be accepted to Stanford. Group campus tours and information sessions for prospective students will no longer take place. Stanford also suspended all international study abroad programs for the spring and has increased its travel restrictions to include university-sponsored travel to any country.
The number of cases of the new coronavirus in Santa Clara County has continued to climbed. The county has the most cases of any in California.
Last week, Tessier-Lavigne announced that a "few" patients who tested positive for COVID-19 are being treated at Stanford Medicine.
"With the increased availability of testing, we can expect that confirmed cases of COVID-19 will continue to grow in our region and perhaps in our university community," Drell wrote.
Drell said that the Stanford community is "doing a remarkable job rising to the challenge: from our food service workers who are continuing to serve our students, to the custodians performing more frequent cleanings; from the faculty and staff rescheduling events and projects, to the dedicated teams who have been working exhausting hours coordinating the university’s response."
University officials are encouraging campus community members to take the same precautions that public health and school officials have been urging: stay home when sick; wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds; cough and sneeze into your elbow; and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stanford has decided to post daily updates on the coronavirus by 6 p.m. each weekday.
Palo Alto University has also moved all classes online through the end of winter quarter. The private university's campuses, including at Stanford, will remain open.
"There are no known cases of the virus in the PAU community but based on the best information available from public health organizations, we are taking these precautionary measures both to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to ease anxiety in our community," President Maureen O'Connor wrote in a March 8 message.
The Foothill-De Anza Community College District announced that in-person classes at its two community colleges would move online. For some activity, studio, and laboratory classes, however, teachers and students can choose to continue to meet in person to finish this quarter.
Read our latest updates on local coronavirus cases here.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.