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As other campuses close and move to online classes, Cal Poly is releasing new details about their response to coronavirus. 

Finals will remain in-person this quarter, but students and faculty are encouraged to stay in town during break due to COVID-19 concerns, President Jeffrey Armstrong announced at an Academic Senate meeting March 10. 

“I can’t assure you that we won’t do something during finals, but it would take some cases that would show up,” Armstrong said. “We do not plan to proactively go virtual, that is not in the cards from Cal Poly’s perspective. We are a low-risk community at this point.”

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the county, but “it’s only a matter of time before our county has a case as well,” County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said in a March 10 news release.

Online classes

There will be a two-week training session for faculty to learn how to teach courses online through Canvas starting next week, Interim Provost Mary Pedersen said. Faculty who take the session will be offered stipends. Next quarter, lectures might be offered online and labs offered in-person, although it is not yet fully decided, Armstrong said.

San José State University cancelled class for two days when a campus affiliate was diagnosed, and UCLA held lectures online but allowed faculty to petition to have labs or lectures in person, Armstrong said. 

UC Berkeley canceled in-person classes, UC Davis moved its finals online, Sacramento State gave faculty the option to teach online and UC Santa Barbara is teaching all classes online, according to reporters at each campus.

The university does not have a definite plan yet, but will make decisions if people in the county are diagnosed. 

Campus events

The university is leaning towards not having Open House out of an “abundance of caution,” Armstrong said, which would have been April 17. They will be coordinating with the CSU, faculty union and other governing bodies to make that decision. 

The university does not yet know if they will cancel May or June events like commencement, Armstrong said.

Travel and Spring Break

Armstrong encouraged students to stay in San Luis Obispo during spring break, noting that many students are from the Seattle, the Bay Area and New York, which all have had multiple cases of coronavirus reported.

The typical student is the least susceptible demographic to the virus, Armstrong said, but they can get the virus while traveling and accidentally bring it to San Luis Obispo without knowing it.

Armstrong said the university is mounting a marketing campaign to discourage students from traveling.

If students choose to travel internationally, the university is asking they disclose the locations visited on this form

At the Academic Senate meeting, faculty were encouraged to disclose their visits to other countries. Faculty who travel to level three countries, like Iran, China, South Korea or Italy, would be quarantined by County Public Health for 14 days.

The university will reimburse faculty for business-related travel expenses that have to be canceled at the last moment, Armstrong said. 

“We don’t want someone to be out of money for something that’s being cancelled due to university decision,” Armstrong said. 

California State University-wide policy prevents Cal Poly and the Cal Poly Corporation employees from international and domestic non-essential travel from now until May 31.

Summer and fall travel may also be prevented, depending on what the CSU knows at the time, Armstrong said. Only campus presidents can determine what travel is considered essential, but Armstrong delegated that authority to campus vice presidents.

Coronavirus testing

Coronavirus testing will also be used sparingly.

San Luis Obispo Public Health only tests for coronavirus in individuals who have major signs of being ill, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Health & Wellbeing Tina Hadaway-Mellis said, since there are less than 500 kits available in the county.

Cal Poly will have their own testing kits soon, but they do not know when. Students who have a cough, cold or flu symptoms should call the Health Center before coming in to avoid infecting others, she said.

“That’s not to put up barriers or to turn them away, but to monitor and ensure that we’re following public health guidance on how to triage the right level of care,” Hadaway-Mellis said.

For people with a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to stay home from school or work, she said. 

Tested individuals are screened for the flu first, then for other respiratory ailments, and then, if they do not have those, they will be tested for coronavirus.

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