Laurentian University suspends classes after first COVID-19 case confirmed in Sudbury
Laurentian University has suspended all classes and in-person activities until further notice, amid concerns over COVID-19. In a statement released March 11, the school wrote that it made the decision in light of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Sudbury, Ont.
The school is the first Canadian university to cancel classes in response to the viral disease, which is colloquially known as the coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic earlier the same day.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said the decision was made in light of both “the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
WHO defines a pandemic as “an outbreak of a new pathogen that spreads easily from person to person across the globe.” The organization had previously held off calling COVID-19 a pandemic.
Tedros said that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by the virus. “It doesn’t change what WHO is doing and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” said Tedros.
As of March 11, there are currently 42 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, including the one in Sudbury Ont., which prompted Laurentian University to suspend classes.
Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) confirmed that the Sudbury COVID-19 case involved someone who attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) mining conference, which took place in Toronto from March 1 to March 4.
In a series of emails to Laurentian community members, the university noted that Laurentian typically has a “major presence” at the PDAC conference and that many members of the university community attended the event this year.
The school decided to cancel classes and in-person activities and move all classes to online delivery until further notice as a precaution. The university remains open, aside from one building, Willet Green Miller Centre, which is home to the Ministry of Northern Development. CTV reports it is also the workplace of the Sudbury man infected with COVID-19.
The Ryersonian asked Ryerson if the university had any presence at the PDAC conference but did not receive comment before publication.
Ryerson University emailed an update concerning COVID-19 to students on March 11, before WHO proclaimed the viral outbreak a pandemic.
The university wrote that “Ryerson’s public health threats committee and emergency response team (ERT) are monitoring the COVID-19 situation daily,” and that the university takes its cues from Toronto Public Health and other public health agencies.
“At this time, the university has not received any directives about cancelling events, exams or classes and the university is continuing under normal operating procedures.”
In the United States several schools, including UCLA, Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and Stanford, have announced plans to hold classes remotely.
In the March 11 emailed statement, Ryerson also reiterated that the school has suspended all university-sanctioned or sponsored student or employee travel to Northern Italy.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday, two days before Ryerson’s update, that all of Italy is under lockdown to try and curb the spread of COVID-19; all public events are also banned in the country.
When asked by the Ryersonian why Ryerson University had not extended the university’s travel suspension to all of Italy, a representative from the university said, “Regarding Italy, Ryerson continues to follow public health and government travel advisories.”
With files from Waverly Neufeld