OU will move to online classes for the remainder of the spring semester due to coronavirus concerns, according to a statement from the university.
The statement said that OU will allow students to remain in on-campus housing for students who must stay, and that the university is “committed to assisting all residents, including our international student community, in every possible way.”
The statement comes after Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma both made similar announcements earlier in the day, and after guidelines were released by the White House and CDC encouraging schooling from home if possible.
“In making our decisions, we have the benefit of our subject matter experts at the OU Health Sciences Center,” interim OU President Joseph Harroz said. “It is noteworthy, that well beyond advising us on our campus plans, our healthcare leadership is helping lead the state and nation through this crisis, including by performing important research that could lead to a medical breakthrough in the global treatment of COVID-19.”
The university also reported a case of COVID-19 in an unidentified community member on March 15 and closed the Norman campus for five days, explaining in an email that OU will attempt to track the individual's interactions on campus alongside the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
In the statement, Harroz said they will have a “reduced occupancy model” for on-campus housing for the remainder of the spring semester with the exception of Kraettli and Traditions apartments.
“On-campus housing residents can expect to receive specific information from OU Housing in the coming days,” Harroz said in the statement. “Regrettably, the rapid pace of this unfolding crisis does not allow us to have the answers for all questions at this time. We will, however, address all questions as quickly as is possible.”
Harroz also explained that graduation ceremonies have been postponed, and that the university is working on how they will “honor our graduates and their achievements at an appropriate time,” possibly through a virtual ceremony.
“We hope to reschedule these events for later in the summer, and we will communicate updates as we have them,” Harroz said.
Harroz explained that for university employees, working remotely is “strongly encouraged across all three campuses,” and that supervisors should institute telecommuting plans for staff “wherever compatible with continuing operations” through the end of the semester following the five-day campus closure that started March 15.
For student employees, managers are also “encouraged to develop and implement telework plans for student employees and graduate assistants where the telework plan supports university operations.”
“Any Norman campus faculty, staff, and students who return to campus are urged to use caution and practice social distancing and proper hygiene,” Harroz said in the statement.
The counseling center will also remain open, providing services by phone or Zoom, according to the statement.
“COVID-19 presents an unprecedented challenge, but I’m confident as ever in the OU community’s ability to navigate the coming days with care, wisdom, and a collective resolve,” Harroz said. “My profound thanks go to all our students, faculty, staff, and residents for your patience and understanding.”
Four cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Cleveland County according to numbers released March 18 from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, with a total of 29 cases confirmed so far in the state.
According to the World Health Organization, people can avoid the disease through hand-washing, social distancing, keeping hands away from the face, practicing respiratory hygiene and seeking medical care quickly if symptoms — including fever, cough and difficulty breathing — arise.
According to the WHO, illness due to the coronavirus is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. But it can cause serious illness — about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care, and older people are at increased risk to experience serious illness.