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Harvard wants students to move out in 5 days in bid to ‘de-densify’ campus over coronavirus

Harvard University is moving to virtual classes because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and the university is asking students to move out of their dorms in five days, according to university spokeswoman Rachael Dane. The Harvard University campus along the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston.
Harvard University is moving to virtual classes because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and the university is asking students to move out of their dorms in five days, according to university spokeswoman Rachael Dane. The Harvard University campus along the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston. (Shutterstock)

School's out for the summer and it's not even spring.

Harvard University is moving to virtual classes because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and the university is asking students to move out of their dorms in five days, according to university spokeswoman Rachael Dane.

"Harvard College students have been asked to move out of their Houses and First-Year Dorms by Sunday, March 15, in an effort to de-densify our community," Dane told CNN in an email.

All academic courses will continue to be held remotely, she added. Harvard spokesman Jason Newton said any meetings on campus after March 23 will be virtual.

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow announced earlier on Tuesday that the university will transition to online classes by March 23, the first day of classes after spring break, due to challenges posed by the coronavirus.

Students were asked to not to return to Harvard's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after spring break "to protect the health" of the community. Students who need to remain on campus will attend classes remotely and should prepare for severely limited activities on campus, according to the university.

"The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings," Bacow said in a statement.

Bacow said "the decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly."

"To our students, I know it will be difficult to leave your friends and your classrooms. We are doing this not just to protect you but also to protect other members of our community who may be more vulnerable to this disease than you are," he said.

More than 700 cases in the US

Also, on Tuesday, the Ivy League announced that it is canceling the league's women's and men's basketball conference tournaments because of the coronavirus. The tournaments were scheduled to start on Saturday at Harvard.

As a result, the league's regular-season champions -- Princeton's women's team (26-1) and Yale's men's team (23-7) -- are automatic qualifiers to the NCAA tournaments. Harvard is one of eight schools in the league.

The Massachusetts Department of Health said there were 41 presumptive positive coronavirus cases in the state on Monday, putting it in fourth behind Washington, New York and California in total cases.

There are at least 735 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the state and local health agencies, governments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Update: This article has been changed to include an updated statement from Bacow to Harvard students.