SAN FRANCISCO, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The University of Washington (UW) on Friday announced suspension of all in-person classes for this semester as the outbreak of COVID-19 infected more people in the United States.
The UW, which is the first large U.S. university to take such a measure due to a scarier prospect of the disease, said all classes, starting on next Monday, will no longer meet in person and instructors will conduct classes and exams online until March 20.
"The last week or so has been difficult as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has gained a foothold in our region and country," said UW President Ana Mari Cauce.
The university said the actions were taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 by avoiding gatherings of large groups of people and events.
"Our focus remains keeping this community healthy as we fulfill our important educational, research and service mission," said Cauce.
While the university is transitioning to online classes, its campuses will remain open for those who need campus services, including medical needs, dining services and residence halls.
Also on Friday, the UW announced that one of its employees has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in self-isolation at home.
The Roosevelt Commons East building on the university's Seattle campus, where the employee was working, has been closed for deep cleaning.
All occupants of the building who were in close contact with the ill employee have been notified and are asked to stay home for 14 days, the university said.
In related development, Seattle University, a private Jesuit university in Washington state, also decided Friday to cancel in-person classes for the rest of the winter quarter starting Monday. But the university said no confirmed cases have been reported on the campus.
Washington is the home to the first U.S. confirmed COVID-19 case, and the United States has reported more than 300 cases with 17 deaths across the country as of Friday, according to U.S. media.