COVID update 2: University of Alaska closes campuses



Must Read Alaska is publishing compendium updates relating to the Coronavirus COVID-19. Check for previous stories under the All News tab.

In this edition of the update: University closure, Anchorage public schools, and Sen. Dan Sullivan suspends a fundraiser.

Starting March 23, and potentially for the rest of the semester, most UA courses will be offered using alternate delivery methods (online, audioconference or web-conference) rather than traditional classroom instruction, said President Jim Johnsen today.

“Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the chancellors for clinical, lab, and other hands-on courses where ‘social distance’ and other personal safety measures can be assured,” he said.

His announcement comes in the wake of the pandemic virus COVID-19.

“In addition, we are working to address issues such as computer access and other student needs in ways that maintain social distance.”

The university is extending spring break by one week for students in order to allow faculty time to prepare their courses for alternative delivery methods.

That means there will be no classes between now and March 23.

Employees should return to work unless affected by restrictions established in separate guidance, he said, and students in residence halls should stay at their permanent residences, or return home to them by March 17.

The closure of the university campuses follows a pattern seen across the nation, from Yale University in New Haven, Conn. to Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Ore.

Temporary access to residence halls will be provided to access needed personal items and study materials, Johnsen said. Exceptions may be made for students who cannot travel or have no place to go.

“We are canceling all events and gatherings of 25 people or more between today (March 12) and March 31. We will revisit the situation later this month and make a decision then regarding events for the rest of the spring semester,” Johnsen said. The school is also expanding restrictions on university-related travel, and making plans for cleaning and sanitizing university facilities.

“We are expanding requirements for employees and others coming to campus to stay home/stay away after returning from travel to certain areas outside Alaska or if they have possible exposure to COVID-19,” Johnsen said.

Visitors to the campuses, including those going to the museums, libraries, and gatherings, are being asked to report their presence to staff, and stay away from campuses if they have traveled in the previous 14 days.

Community restrictions apply to employees, students and campus visitors.

The complete set of guidelines was published today, subject to change:

Anchorage Public Schools: Anchorage public schools will remain closed for a week past Spring break, which is this week, due to the coronavirus. District leaders are considering keeping the schools closed longer, the District announced Thursday.

Sen. Dan Sullivan: Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Senate canceled its upcoming March recess in order to continue work on an emergency aid and economic relief package for Americans impacted by the COVID-19 virus.

As a result, Senator Sullivan will remain in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to ensure these critical negotiations with the White House as well as his colleagues in the House and Senate reflect the needs and priorities of Alaska and the country. 

Because of these recent developments, his fundraiser scheduled for Friday at Rotak Helicopter Services will be rescheduled.


  1. 1) There are no known cases of the Wuhan virus in Alaska at this time.
    2) Young people are rarely affected.

    Wouldn’t it be more prudent to encourage best practices in hygiene, disinfect on a regular basis, and encourage self quarantine for potential cases? As opposed to a drastic knee jerk and ultimately costly reaction such as this?

    • Welcome to Alaska, where whole villages got wiped off the map during the 1918 pandemic. New around here?

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