U of M, MinnState discuss COVID-19 protocols with Higher Education Committee

Higher education institutions in Minnesota have taken proactive steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19 disease to safeguard students and staff on campuses across the state. Since the briefing to the Higher Education Committee on March 10, the University of Minnesota has canceled all in-person classes until April 1.

University of Minnesota President Joan Grabel testified to the Higher Education Committee, announcing that all non-essential travel by faculty and staff would be discontinued beginning on Monday, March 16. All U of M Level 3 study abroad programs (China, South Korea, Italy and Iran) have already been suspended.  There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on any of the U’s 5 campuses.

For on-campus response, the U has established the Health Operations Team, led by the Health Emergency Response Office (HERO). According to the U’s website the Health Operations Team has several priorities, including:

  • Ensuring safety of University students, faculty and staff traveling abroad
  • Ensuring University health care professionals and clinics implement CDC guidelines surrounding COVID-19
  • Partnering with MDH on public health surveillance and traveler monitoring activities
  • Providing timely information updates to University communities
  • Addressing questions and concerns from members of the University community

Minnesota State officials testified that the system canceled all international travel and study abroad programs on February 28. MinnState has not yet canceled any classes but said they could do online learning courses for a short period of time. MinnState officials noted they want to ensure students who need clinical experience can get it to ensure they get their licenses upon graduation.

Rebecca Bergman, President of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, said they have not yet suspended study abroad programs. All students who were in Level 3 countries (China, South Korea, Italy or Iran) have returned to the United States, and they have contingency plans for seniors. She noted that in 1998 when the campus was hit by a tornado, they closed for three weeks and seniors were still able to graduate on time.