Florida officials have ordered state universities to shift to online classes and tell students to stay away from campuses for at least two weeks, in response to the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.
As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread, “it has become clear that to protect the students and the residents of our state, proactive rather than reactive guidance to universities is necessary,” officials with the state university system said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
Under the directive, universities “should immediately transition to remote instruction” if students have returned to campus from spring break. Those schools include Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University and the University of Florida.
University officials whose students are currently on spring break are being asked to tell them not to return to campus for at least two weeks following the break’s conclusion.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that asking instructors to prepare for online classes is “the prudent thing to do.”
“I think we are preparing to see more (CODIV-19) cases,” the governor told reporters at a press conference in the Capitol. “So I think it is prudent for them to do it and then they can reassess in real time as we go.”
While campuses will remain open and “operations will continue,” each university “is being asked to make adjustments to minimize the health risks to students, faculty and staff,” Board of Governors Chairman Syd Kitson and State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser said in a prepared statement.
“While students are encouraged to remain off campus, each university should develop a plan for providing residential accommodations for students who need assistance or must remain in place,” they added.
Florida State University officials announced Wednesday that the school “will shift to online instruction for all courses” for at least two weeks, beginning on March 23.
As of Tuesday night, 21 people have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in Florida, according to data from the state Department of Health. Two of them have died from the respiratory disease.
The actions by the higher-education officials come as COVID-19 continues to spread.
FSU is “taking this action proactively to protect not only our campus community but the larger community as well,” university officials said in Wednesday's statement. Residence halls will close at noon on March 14, the officials said.
DeSantis spoke with Kitson and FSU President John Thrasher prior to the announcements, according to the governor’s public schedule.
University of Florida officials earlier this week advised that faculty would be shifting from in-person to online instruction “as soon as possible.”
“While this is not a requirement at this time, there is a strong probability that it will become a requirement before the end of the spring semester,” UF officials said in a prepared statement Monday.