This story will be part of ongoing reporting on the COVID-19 virus’ effect on Grand Valley State University. We will update this story as we get more information. Check GVSU’s COVID-19 update website for updated information as well.
Update 6:55 p.m.: The University has cancelled all classes March 12-15 and moved to digital-only classes March 16-29. Read the full story here.
With rapid spread and response to the COVID-19, or “coronavirus,” outbreak, public universities around the country and canceling face-to-face classes in lieu of digital sessions to support viral containment efforts. Michigan State University announced they would be canceling in-person classes effective noon on March 11, with eyes on other universities around the state for who will take action next.
On Grand Valley State University’s campus, Chief of Grand Valley Police Department Brandon DeHaan gave one unified message regarding the COVID-19 outbreak: stay calm.
“I think (staying calm) is perhaps the most important thing that our student body can do to help to stop the spread of this particular virus,” DeHaan said. “One of the most important things we can do is prevention, and quite frankly a lot of that just comes down to personal hygiene, (such as) washing one’s hands. My sense is if we can get our community to get on board with this prevention, that it can really help to slow down the spread of this (virus).”
In terms of immediate action thus far, the University has already cancelled various study abroad programs and some speaker events, and DeHaan said he is looking at all possible options moving forward.
“Now there’s a lot of information that students may have I know that we’ve canceled,” DeHaan said. “(We’re cancelling) study abroad for a period of time. And again these decisions are being made based on scientific information that we’re able to glean from the CDC and local health departments that will help guide the university’s response as to our next plan of action,” DeHaan said.
With nearby universities like Michigan State, Central Michigan, Michigan Tech, and Ohio State moving to online classes, DeHaan said GVSU is considering a similar course of action in the near future as well.
“There are discussions ongoing right now about alternative means of education. My sense here is that the community will get additional information as that comes forward,” DeHaan said.
Looking specifically at classes, the Academic Policies and Standards Committee of the Faculty Senate will be meeting with other Faculty Senate leadership to discuss “awarding credit for (partial completion of the course) in the event of long term emergencies,” according to an email sent to student senators.
GVSU has not issued a formal plan for in-person classes or otherwise, but DeHaan made sure to note that the process is very fluid and that new information is coming in every day.
One thing that will not change will be University-supported preventative maintenance aimed at keeping the community healthy. DeHaan said that Facility Services are cleaning door handles and keeping public areas clean and sanitized whenever possible.
DeHaan mentioned that although the CDC says that “older adults” are most at risk for effects of COVID-19 due to the plethora of pre-existing conditions and weakened immune systems, students and young people have the same risk to catch the virus.
“We (are aware that) our typical students (are) 17 to 24 years of age,” DeHaan said. “They often get mild symptoms, but they can be carriers and that can be a concern for us as this goes on.”
DeHaan made it clear that GVSU is doing everything it can to help prevent the spread of the virus, including temporarily opening the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on Allendale Campus to identify the university’s best strategy moving forward.
In the last week of February, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was held in Washington, D.C. DeHaan confirmed that there were GVSU students in attendance there, as well as other events with possible exposure to the virus.
“We’ve been in communication with those students,” DeHaan said. “When information is (relayed) to us, we are circling back and trying to be in communication with those individuals. If we have individuals that may be at a higher risk, then they quarantine and we do have some students that are self-quarantined (as of now). Or they may choose to go home. And again, this follows along with CDC recommendations.”
DeHaan said those students were determined not to be a risk as of now and reiterated that all hands are on deck and GVSU is doing everything they possibly can.
GVPD Capt. Jeff Stoll said community members should be on the lookout for an announcement from the University later this evening.