University suspends face-to-face classes amid COVID-19 pandemic

For the first time in Bronco history, Cal Poly Pomona is briefly pausing all in-person instruction from March 13-17 to set up virtual modes of instruction, which will begin from March 18-27, as a precautionary response to the current spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. The announcement was made March 11 through a university-wide email sent by CPP President Soraya M. Coley. 

A final decision regarding the instructional delivery to students for the remainder of the semester will take place during spring break (March 28-April 3), on April 2, “after a careful reassessment of our local context and risk,” according to the university-wide email. As for now, students are not required to come to campus, however, all are still required to complete their coursework online. Online classes will continue as normal. Students have the choice to either continue with the virtual instruction or come to class, which would require instructors to continue teaching on campus.

“Again, we don’t really know what’s going on which just makes this entire situation more stressful,” said third-year computer science student Monica Villanueva. “The whole reason for the temporary pause is to slow the spread of this virus, but sending us home and bringing us all back after spring break doesn’t make sense to me because someone could contract it in those weeks.”

In-person instruction will be moved to virtual platforms from March 18-27, leaving campus with an eerie emptiness.
(Lauren Bruno | The Poly Post)

“From the professors I’ve talked to, it’s split; some remain hopeful that we’ll return after spring break, and some think it will remain online for the rest of the semester,” Villanueva said.

In addition to the shutdown of in-person classes, all events on campus with more than 100 attendees will be shut down from March 12-May 31 to prevent any chance to further spread the coronavirus. As stated in the university-wide email, the 2020 commencement ceremony is yet to be decided upon as more information becomes available. As well, all intercollegiate athletic activities have been suspended until further notice. 

All on-campus offices, Associated Students, Inc., Housing Services and resources such as dining services will remain open during the temporary pause and online-instruction period. The Student Health and Wellness services will remain open as well.

As of March 15, the BRIC will be closed for an undetermined amount of time.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they canceled commencement,” said fifth-year music industry studies student Erica Vergara. “I’m a first-generation college student and my family probably won’t be able to see me graduate. All (of) my hard work won’t be honored the way I would have liked.”

As of March 15, there have been 1,678 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and 41 deaths. There have been a total of 247 reported cases and five deaths in California as of March 13, including one non-California resident as stated by the California Department of Public Health COVID-19 updates page. 

According to the WHO, “There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.”

The closest case of coronavirus in proximity to CPP resulted in the death of a 60 year-old woman at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center on March 11. According to the city of Walnut news release sent on March 12, “The patient was admitted to the hospital in full cardiac arrest on March 9th and unfortunately passed shortly after admission.” 

The WHO defines coronaviruses as “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).”

The WHO also identifies COVID-19 as a new strain of coronavirus that has not before been identified in humans. Symptoms include coughing, high fevers, difficulties breathing, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, it’s possible COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, SARS and possibly death. 

The WHO announced on March 11 to the public that the strain, COVID-19, is now characterized as a pandemic. Defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a pandemic takes place when viruses “emerge which are able to infect people easily and spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.” 

As CPP begins to prepare for online instruction, students are not the only ones the virtual switch is affecting. All instructors and lecturers set up the new modes of instruction on March 16 and 17.  Lectures and all instruction will be delivered through Blackboard and Zoom, a video conference platform in which instructors will be able to post lectures and hold office hours for students through CPP’s video streaming server, Kaltura.

“At this time all I can say is in the Collins College, the Food and Beverage faculty are working on retooling some of the cooking labs, which are face-to-face, to a virtual format,” said Ernie Briones, a lecturer in the Collins College of Hospitality Management. “We are working to maintain the pedagogical rigor in the virtual sessions being created to ensure the continuity for this change in how face-to-face cooking labs have been taught.”

Classes that require in-person attendance, such as laboratories, activity, physical education, performance and studio, are subject to continue meeting in person if the virtual modes are deemed not appropriate, according to President Coley’s email statement. 

To prevent further infection, CPP and its auxiliary organizations suspended all international and nonessential domestic travel from March 14 until May 31. According to the CPP Safety and Emergency Information page, “Vice presidents and deans will make determinations on what constitutes nonessential domestic travel for their respective units and colleges and have the authority to make exceptions accordingly.” 

Students who have already paid for traveling programs through the university are encouraged to cancel reservations. They may request reimbursements by following the directions listed on the Procedures to Request Reimbursement of Employee and Student State-Funded Canceled Travel document, found under the March 14  “Addition of link to travel page about cancellation and refunds” on the CPP COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information home page. 

The announcement of the CPP travel suspension follows the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office March 9 announcement advising all 23 campuses to suspend “all international and non-essential domestic travel from (March 9) through May 31, 2020.” 

Campuses that have students in study abroad programs in countries with a CDC warning level of three, are advised to assist students to either stay in the country or to return with “as much assistance as possible,” depending on which is the safer option. The CDC level three warning is the highest warning level on the 1-3 scale, with a recommendation of avoiding all nonessential travel.

On a global level, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Jan. 31 the government would bar entry of those foreign nationals traveling from China to the U.S. On March 14, Trump extended the travel restriction to European nations that are part of the 26 nations in the Schengen area, U.K. and Ireland. Travel restrictions to the U.S. are exempt to citizens, however, additional screening after traveling to the U.S. may be required. 

The worldwide focus on the spread of the coronavirus has also started a panic as people are buying products like toiletries, hand sanitizer, Clorox products and preservable food in bulk to prepare for an in-home quarantine or lockdown. On March 9, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced restrictions for citizens during a lockdown for all in the country until April 3.

Students are stocking up on supplies at the Vista Market, leaving water (top image) and paper towel (bottom image) shelves empty. (Elizabeth Hernandez | The Poly Post)

“Also, the stores are insane right now,” said Villanueva, the CPP computer science student. “I went to WinCo with my roommates to get some cereal (on March 3) and people had carts full of stuff, the aisles were empty and a lady told us she was in line to pay for over an hour.”

(Elizabeth Hernandez | The Poly Post)

CPP is just one of many university and college campuses across the nation to switch to an online mode of classes as a precautionary measure. Some college campuses in California making the switch include the University of Southern California, UCLA, University of California, Irvine, Pepperdine University, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, Loyola Marymount University and more as time progresses. 

With the current circumstances, the Health Center advises all students with cold-like symptoms to call the center first before going in so that they can get the appropriate care and advice.

“The Health Center is not able to serve as a testing center, but in cooperation with the Public Health Department we can submit specimens for those who meet the Public Health testing criteria because of their symptoms and travel or contact with confirmed cases,” according to Rita O’Neil, director of Student Health and Wellness Services. 

Recommended prevention measures by O’Neil include covering coughing and sneezing with an elbow, avoiding crowded spaces where one would be closer than six feet to others and washing hands before and after blowing one’s nose. More information about the COVID-19 virus is available through email at healthalert@cpp.edu. 

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