Virus cases in Michigan force changes at state universities


DETROIT — Many Michigan universities suspended face-to-face classes for thousands of students Wednesday, and courts were advised to consider postponing trials in the fallout after the state's first two cases of coronavirus were announced.

Michigan State University and the University of Michigan said online classes or other arrangements will last until the week of April 19, the end of the spring term before exams. U-M canceled Thursday and Friday classes in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn so instructors can prepare.

"Our goals are to deliver on our mission while protecting health and safety by minimizing the potential spread of the disease, both within our community and in the broader society," U-M President Mark Schlissel said.

State officials, meanwhile, urged the public to consider canceling large gatherings while also continuing to wash hands, avoid handshakes and stay at home if ill. Michigan's chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said more coronavirus cases should be expected.

"Groups should evaluate and make decisions whether or not to cancel conferences, sporting events or concerts," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "This is to keep the most people we can safe. I encourage everyone to be flexible."

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

The two Michigan COVID-19 cases involve a woman in Oakland County who traveled outside the U.S. and a man in Wayne County who traveled outside the state. Khaldun said local health departments still were trying to trace their contacts.

An MSU student showing symptoms has been tested for coronavirus and results are pending. The student had contact with the Detroit-area man, said Amanda Darche, spokeswoman for the Ingham County Health Department.

Wayne State University in Detroit extended spring break through March 22, while Central Michigan University told students not to return to campus after this week's break and prepare for online instruction at least through March 20.

In the Upper Peninsula, Michigan Technological University said no face-to-face classes will be held through April 17. Oakland University announced a similar policy.

Kareem Rifai, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Michigan, said he's shocked by the abrupt change in his education. He has a daily two-hour Japanese class, for example, and is graded on his conversations with other students.

"The consequences are really hitting everyone," Rifai said. "People realized classes going online were going to be an absolute mess. Student organizations were going to be in shambles. … There's just a lot of unknowns right now."

In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan said the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade in the Corktown neighborhood was canceled.

"All those folks standing shoulder to shoulder for hours, it was a recipe for the spread of the problem," he said.

Duggan said a medical response team has been established, predicting "it's likely a matter of days" until a city resident is infected.

Elsewhere, Michigan Chief Justice Bridget McCormack told judges across the state to consider postponing jury trials unless a criminal defendant is in jail or there have been long delays.

"These are not orders. They are recommendations. Every court is different," Supreme Court spokesman John Nevin said, noting that some courts in northern Michigan "don't have a lot of traffic" and could be at lower risk for the virus.

The Michigan Democratic Party postponed a March 20 fundraising dinner and might not meet the next day to endorse candidates for the Supreme Court, state school board and university governing boards.

AP reporters Corey Williams in Detroit and David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this story.


Facebook Comments