This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. on March 18 to reflect the latest developments.
As colleges and universities nationwide begin making decisions on how to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, The Hoya has compiled a timeline of how the disease has impacted the Georgetown University community.
After claiming its first life in Wuhan, China, in mid-January, COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus strain, has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide. Governments, companies, schools and study abroad programs have undertaken efforts to contain the disease, which has infected over 113,000 people. At least 20 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area as of March 10, according to NBC4 Washington.
Symptoms range in severity from mild respiratory illness to more serious complications, including death. The disease has a mortality rate of 21.9% for patients over 80 years old, according to a recent World Health Organization report. The fatality rate for patients with no underlying chronic condition is 1.4%.
Georgetown’s graduation ceremony was postponed indefinitely, according to an email from University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95).
“After careful consideration, we have made the determination that it will be necessary to postpone Commencement activities to a time in which we can safely convene as a community,” DeGioia wrote. “I share this information with you today to reassure you that we are committed to holding Commencement ceremonies and to ensure that our students and families have as much time to prepare as possible.”
A letter to the administration calling on the university to postpone commencement instead of canceling the ceremony garnered over 1,100 signatures.
“We believe graduating students deserve the opportunity not only to celebrate their accomplishments, but to do so with their family, friends and loved ones,” the letter says. “Commencement, undoubtedly, provides an opportunity for graduates to celebrate their academic achievements and relish the results of their years of hard work. And, in this moment of upheaval, an in-person commencement ceremony would allow graduates an opportunity for closure and reflection.”
Organizers Madeline Charbonneau (COL ’20), Hannah Urtz (SFS ’20), Katrina Schmidt (SFS ’20), Maya Gandhi (SFS ’20) and Erin Doherty (COL ’20) sent the letter to the administration and student leaders Tuesday night. (Full disclosure: Urtz, Schmidt and Doherty formerly served as senior news editors for The Hoya. Charbonneau formerly served as an executive editor and Gandhi formerly served as editor-in-chief for The Hoya.)
Universities around the country, including The George Washington University, have canceled their commencement ceremonies.
Later in the day, the university moved up the mandatory move-out date for students living in university owned housing, ordering campus residents to retrieve their belongings before March 22. Previously, students had until March 29 to move out of their dorms. The university also urged students living off campus to return to their permanent residences in the “strongest terms” in the email to students. Students who applied to live on campus for the duration of the semester will be notified with a decision by March 20, according to the email.
U.S. officials could consider halting domestic flights in the coming days, according to CNBC.
All study abroad programs, regardless of location, were suspended, according to an email sent from Office of Global Education Director Craig Rinker to all students currently enrolled in study abroad programs.
Students are required to make flight arrangements to return to their permanent addresses as soon as possible. The suspension comes amid growing concerns about travel accessibility as countries impose stricter regulation on travel, according to the email.
While some programs may be able to offer instructional continuity through remote learning, the university is creating solutions for other programs that do not have the option for online coursework, Rinker wrote in the email.
“We expect to announce the details of this coursework (including registration procedures) no later than Friday, March 20, 2020,” Rinker wrote. “We understand that this will involve a period of advising and transition in coursework. Your advising deans will work with you to make this transition as smooth as possible.”
The university will also work to alleviate the financial implications for students affected by their program suspensions by collecting travel details and reimbursement requests through an online survey sent to students, according to the email.
The first case of the coronavirus was reported in the Georgetown community, according to a universitywide email from Chief Public Health Officer Vince WinklerPrins. The student contracted COVID-19 while studying abroad and is seeking treatment at their permanent residence. The student had not been to any of Georgetown’s campuses.
Although the patient’s study abroad program has decided that other Georgetown students in the program do not need testing, the university is contacting other students in the program, according to WinklerPrins.
“The individual’s program has conducted a contact trace of those who were in close contact with the individual and determined that no members of the Georgetown community required any additional testing or evaluation,” WinklerPrins wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are reaching out to all Georgetown participants in that program.”
A series of changes in academic policy seeking to help students better adjust to online coursework were announced by Provost Robert Groves in a universitywide email. Among the changes, undergraduate students will be offered the option to make any of their classes graded on a pass/fail basis through the last day of classes before finals.
Students will additionally have the option to withdraw from any class through the last day of classes in the spring semester, though deans are still required to approve the withdrawal. Professors have also been advised to delay all assessments during the week of March 16 to a later date.
Professors are also instructed to grant excused absences through March 30 for any complications that may result from students transitioning housing or converting to online coursework. The university is encouraging professors to accommodate students moving to online learning, as well as to ask for student feedback.
Though the transition may be difficult for students, the university will continue to work to provide resources and ensure students’ success in the classroom, according to Groves.
“We understand the sense of difference, dislocation and loss many of you are experiencing and the real challenges of the transition, which will affect each and every one of us in different ways. We know this semester will be challenging,” Groves wrote. “Our faculty are deeply concerned for you and your learning experience. Together, we will be with you every step of the way.”
Georgetown extended online coursework through the end of the academic year, according to a universitywide email from DeGioia. Students will move out of undergraduate residences beginning March 16.
Students living in on-campus dormitories will not have to pay room and board costs for the remainder of the semester, according to a follow-up email from Groves. Other universities pivoting online have introduced similar policies.
Students living on campus must retrieve their belongings sometime before March 29, Groves wrote. Students must fill out an online form by 12 p.m. on March 17 to indicate a time to return to campus and officially move out of their residence for the summer.
All students are required to move their belongings out by March 29. If a student is unable to return to campus by then, the student is required to fill out an application, and the university will ship one box of essential items to the student’s permanent residence. The university will not dispose of personal belongings of those students with accepted applications.
Additionally, any student returning from a country with a Level 3 risk classification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must self-quarantine for two weeks before they will be allowed to return to campus to move out.
Essential services will still remain open on campus. While all students are asked to return to their permanent residences, students with special circumstances may apply to remain on campus, though the university will not guarantee that any students’ applications will be accepted, according to Groves’ email.
The university is additionally reviewing plans for the continuation of the commencement ceremony in May and will make a decision about the event in the near future, according to DeGioia’s email.
The decision to forego in-person classes for the rest of the academic year is meant to further support actions aimed at slowing the transmission of COVID-19, which has ramped up in recent days, DeGioia wrote in the universitywide email.
“Over the past two days, there have been significant developments in the global, national, and local responses to the ongoing spread of the virus,” DeGioia wrote. “The actions we are taking at Georgetown seek to mitigate transmission of the virus—to slow ‘community spread’—and to protect the most vulnerable from its worst impacts.”
After the email announcement, students circulated a change.org petition calling for the university to offer students the option for spring 2020 semester classes to be graded on a pass/fail basis. As of 4 p.m., the petition has garnered over 1300 signatures.
The announcements arrive as professional and personal activity across the United States reaches a standstill. Earlier in the day, organizers postponed the Boston Marathon and the Masters golf tournament. Louisiana delayed its presidential primary election by two months. In addition, millions of students are out of school following statewide closures. Seven states announced the closure of all public schools indefinitely.
Also March 13, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that beginning March 16 all public schools in the district will close for at least two weeks.
Trump declared a national emergency at 3:30 p.m. to release 50 billion of funds to states to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
The OGE recalled all students in study abroad programs through Georgetown in the Schengen Area of Europe after President Donald Trump ordered a ban on all travel from 26 European countries the night before. Under Trump’s order, any U.S. citizen in Europe is allowed to fly back to the United States but must fly back to certain airports to undergo screening for COVID-19.
The CDC risk rating has also been raised to Level 3 for all European countries, not including the United Kingdom, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Turkey and Ukraine.
All students in affected programs are expected to return to their permanent addresses; however, plans to make up academic content may vary by program, a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“Students with a permanent address in a CDC Level 3 country should return to an alternate permanent address outside of their home country,” the university spokesperson wrote. “Some students may have the option to continue their current program through instructional continuity or remote learning. That should be a first choice for completion. For all other students, the University is designing academic continuity solutions for undergraduate students to ensure that students will be able to earn a full semester of credit through new online coursework scheduled to run from the end of March through mid June.”
All students, faculty and staff returning from travel to affected European countries are required to self-quarantine at an off-campus residence for two weeks before they are allowed to return to campus, according to a March 12 email from WinklerPrins to all students.
While the status of other study abroad programs is still uncertain, the OGE sent an email to all Georgetown students currently enrolled in a study abroad program urging them to return to their permanent addresses.
Also on March 12, Georgetown canceled all spring athletics practices and competitions, according to a university news release. The decision comes after the NCAA and the Patriot League announced the cancellation of their spring sport tournaments.
Though the decision may come as a disappointment for student-athletes, Georgetown is prioritizing the safety of all athletes, according to Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed.
“We recognize the deep disappointment that will be felt by our student-athletes, coaches, and communities — especially our seniors, who have contributed so much to the success of our programs over the last four years,” Lee wrote in the news release. “Please know this decision was made out of the utmost consideration for the health, safety and well-being of all.”
DeGioia announced in a universitywide email that all classes will take place online until further notice beginning March 16 in response to growing international concern around the spread of COVID-19.
The university additionally recommends that all students complete the online coursework at their permanent addresses; however, campus buildings and some services, including the Georgetown University Police Department, the Student Health Center, Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Fresh Food Company buffet, will remain open for students who decide to stay on campus.
Students who make the decision to remain on campus must fill out a form with the Office of Residential Living before March 17 at 12 p.m. to receive permission from the university to remain on campus, according to an FAQ page on the university’s website.
The Department of Planning and Facilities Management has also increased cleaning on campus, deploying additional staff to clean frequently touched points on campus. Facilities will also add 23 hand sanitizer dispensers around campus, according to the FAQs. University drivers are required to use disinfectant on high-touch points on all vehicles both before and after each ride.
Though there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Georgetown community, some members may have come into contact with the virus in recent days, according to DeGioia’s email.
In a separate universitywide email, Groves outlined policies for faculty, staff and both graduate and undergraduate students as a result of the announcement. A more comprehensive explanation of the policies will be sent at a later time, according to the email.
Also on March 11, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program announced the cancellation of the early action GAAP Weekend. A decision on the two regular decision GAAP weekends in April will be made at a later date, according to an email sent to undergraduate GAAP ambassadors.
The university will provide admitted students with online resources to present them with information that would have been communicated to them during GAAP weekend, a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“In the coming weeks, Georgetown will make available a series of online lectures, chats, and experiences designed to connect future students with our academic life and campus community,” the university spokesperson wrote. “Our hope is to replicate much of the programming they would have experienced during the Open House.”
The OGE announced a policy change for upcoming summer study abroad sessions in an email sent to students accepted to the programs. The office changed the deadline for students to commit their program from March 16 to March 23. The withdrawal period was also pushed to April 1 to allow students to withdraw from the programs with full refunds.
Georgetown also suspended all current study-abroad programs in Madrid, according to an OGE email obtained by The Hoya. The day before, the Spanish government closed Madrid universities for 15 days, leading to Georgetown’s decision. Other programs in Spain have not been suspended and will be reviewed on a program-to-program basis.
American University announced March 10 that all classes would shift to online only through April 3. All Maryland public universities released a similar decision March 10 to move to online coursework effective after their spring break.
GW announced that classes would move online through April 5. Students are able to remain on campus during their spring break, which runs from March 16 to March 21, though after March 21 students must apply to remain on campus, according to an email obtained by The Hoya.
Georgetown Day School, a private school in Northwest D.C., closed for the day on March 10 to deep clean the campus. The school’s administration came to the decision because of the number of community members who attend Christ Church Georgetown, according to a message posted on the school’s website.
Dean of Georgetown-Qatar Ahmad Dallal announced the suspension of all in-person classes and a conversion to online instruction at the Qatar campus effective March 11, according to an announcement on GU-Q’s website. All events at the campus have also been canceled.
GU-Q’s campus has been monitoring the situation since January, according to GU-Q Chief Communications Officer Moamer Qazafi.
The school is working to address students’ concerns and will adjust its response if needed as it continues to track the spread of the disease, according to Qazafi.
“Student requests for improved internet connectivity are being addressed and they are being supplied with the tools and information to connect their devices to continue their studies,” Qazafi wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We will continue to monitor the situation and inform our community as appropriate.”
Also on March 9, Julia Farr (CAS ’88), executive director of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, emailed graduates and parents to cancel John Carroll Weekend in Bermuda. The annual graduate gathering event was scheduled to take place in Bermuda after being relocated from Hong Kong because of ongoing protests in the area.
No plans exist to relocate John Carroll Weekend to another location, and all persons set to receive awards will be recognized at a separate date, Farr wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“John Carroll Weekend is a cherished tradition, and the time we take to connect, celebrate, and honor service to our community is irreplaceable. Above all else, we prioritize the health and safety of our alumni, friends, families, employees, and contributors to the weekend,” Farr wrote. “We look forward to honoring our awardees in the future and will provide more detailed celebration plans as soon as we are able.”
School Without Walls High School, a D.C. public high school in Foggy Bottom, closed one day for a deep clean after a staffer came into contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
In a schoolwide email, WinklerPrins announced that MedStar Georgetown University Hospital was treating the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in D.C.
Patient Timothy Cole, the reverend at Christ Church on 3116 O St. NW, was the first reported COVID-19 case in the District. Hundreds of individuals who attended services March 1 or who were at the church Feb. 24 or between Feb. 28 and March 3 have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to The Washington Post.
Both the university and Medstar Hospital are working with officials to ensure the safety of all members of the Georgetown community, according to a March 8 email.
“While no one in the Georgetown community has tested positive for COVID-19, MGUH is working closely with the CDC and DC Health and following all CDC protocols for patients and any staff and medical students who may have been impacted. Their health and safety is our top priority,” WinklerPrins wrote. “We will continue to provide regular updates as we take additional measures to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff.”
Spring break officially begins for Georgetown students.
The University of Washington announced that all of its classes would no longer be held in-person through the end of its winter semester, which ends March 20. UW released plans to resume normal operations and in-person classes March 30 but may reassess the decision pending further information, according to the university’s website.
All students who had traveled to affected locations were asked to self-quarantine for two weeks before returning to campus. Students who self-quarantined are also required to receive clearance from WinklerPrins before they can return to Georgetown’s campus, according to the March 5 email to students.
The university suspended all university-sponsored international travel, extending the moratorium to May 15.
In addition, the university canceled all international alternative break programs, service learning spring break trips sponsored by the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service for students, faculty and staff, because of concerns about the spread of the virus.
The university announced a suspension of all university-sponsored travel to countries with the Level 3 risk classification from the CDC. At the time, the countries on the list include Iran, China, South Korea and Italy. The university also suspended all international travel unrelated to for-credit academics through April 1.
Georgetown announced a suspension of all university-related travel to South Korea for students, faculty and administrators after the CDC raised South Korea’s threat level to Level 3, advising against all nonessential travel. South Korea had reported more than 2,000 cases of the disease, the largest reported outbreak outside of China at the time.
Study abroad programs at Villa Le Balze in Italy were also canceled amid outbreaks in Northern Italy after the death toll reached 11 people and the CDC categorized the country as Level 2, recommending travelers practice enhanced precautions when traveling to these countries. Students in the programs were instructed to return to the United States and will complete instructional continuity to account for coursework missed because of the program’s termination.
The OGE postponed the School of Foreign Service Centennial Lab spring break trip to Cambodia because of concerns about the spread of the virus. The affected program, titled “Politics and Performance: Confronting the Past, Shaping the Future,” was canceled after reports that a cruise ship passenger who disembarked in Cambodia had tested positive for COVID-19.
Faculty leaders hoped to reschedule the trip for May, but a new date has not been announced.
Georgetown asked students and faculty who had traveled to China in the previous two weeks to complete a survey documenting their interactions with those with novel coronavirus and potential symptoms in a statement on the university website.
The first COVID-19 death outside of China — in the Philippines — was reported two days earlier, according to The New York Times.
The university issued an online statement to faculty and staff about potential measures to inform students about the COVID-19. The statement suggested that future instructional continuity online may become necessary. The same day, the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called the outbreak a public health emergency.
The statement came the day after the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
Georgetown announced a suspension of all university-sponsored or related travel to China. The university also canceled all spring study abroad programs in China after the CDC and the U.S. Department of State raised their travel advisories to recommend that people avoid nonessential international travel and reconsider travel to China.
Seven Georgetown students were affected by the program cancellations. The university assisted students who wished to return to Georgetown for the remainder of the semester.
The university issued a statement warning students and faculty against traveling to Wuhan after the outbreak of COVID-19. The preliminary statement included information about symptoms and preventative measures for the Georgetown community. The statement came one day after Chinese authorities quarantined the city of Wuhan.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Hoya Staff Writers Clara Grudberg, Sophie Haber and Riley Rogerson contributed reporting.