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Cal Poly extending Spring Break, canceling events due to coronavirus concerns

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Cal Poly was ranked second among master's institutions in the nation for the number of students studying abroad last school year.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Spring Break will be extended by a week at Cal Poly due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Spring Quarter is scheduled to begin on April 6, rather than March 30 as originally scheduled.

Winter Quarter classes and in-person finals were expected to continue through the quarter, which ends Friday.

The university initially said Thursday that all athletic events would be fanless for at least the first half of Spring Quarter. Later in the day, the Big West Conference announced it was suspending all spring sports competition. Cal Poly and UCSB are members of the Big West Conference, which means no athletic games will be played at either school through the spring quarter.

Cal Poly's massive Open House event and annual Poly Royal Rodeo were also canceled.

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a video message that a decision would be made by March 25 on whether spring classes would switch to online instruction.

"Some courses can be taught excellently online, but others cannot, and in any case, faculty have very little time to transfer their courses to new instruction," said Armstrong.

He said faculty members will use the extra week of Spring Break to work on plans in case they do need to make their classes virtual. Armstrong said faculty would be paid during that time.

"It is likely we will offer at least some Spring Quarter classes virtually to protect people who are vulnerable," said Armstrong.

Armstrong said the university would also decide by March 25 whether students who have left the San Luis Obispo Area should return to campus. He said campus would still be open for students who chose to stay there over Spring Break.

"I want to reassure students and parents, we do not currently foresee any scenario under which Cal Poly would close and offer no Spring Quarter classes," said Armstrong. "Spring classes will go forward and seniors will graduate."

Armstrong said the university's response to the coronavirus situation was driven by three principals. "As an institution of higher education, we make our decisions based on facts and evidence. The safety of our students, staff and faculty comes before any other goal or consideration. And student success is what all of our efforts and decisions are aimed at," said Armstrong.

As of Thursday, there were still no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in San Luis Obispo County.

Armstrong said the university was in close contact with city and county governments, as well as other local schools.

"Other CSU and UC campuses face different decisions than we do. San Luis Obispo County Public Health says the risk of transmission in our area is currently very low," said Armstrong.

Armstrong went on to say the campus is relatively isolated, but that fact can work both for and against Cal Poly, especially heading into Spring Break.

"We ask that you take seriously the possible risk of being exposed to the coronavirus during travel or at your destination and the danger that you might unknowingly and inadvertently bring it back to Cal Poly," said Armstrong. "We don't know what the overall coronavirus situation will be after Spring Break."

Armstrong said it was possible people who leave San Luis Obispo County could be asked to stay away from campus, but that it was also possible the situation could get better over break.

Armstrong said the university has already suspended non-essential domestic and non-level 3 CDC international travel. Travel to level 3 CDC countries is prohibited. In addition to Open House and the rodeo being canceled, campus tours have been canceled through the end of Spring Quarter.

The university sent the following note to the campus community:

Dear Campus Community:

The news about the novel coronavirus outbreak, also known as COVID-19, changes rapidly. I know that some of you have concerns or questions about Cal Poly's response. The attached video addresses many of the questions and concerns that have been communicated to my office, and explains in more detail how Cal Poly is responding, and why. Please take a few minutes to watch it here.

The most up to date and reliable source of information about COVID-19 and Cal Poly is our dedicated webpage. This page is updated continuously with information from campus as well as from local and national public health agencies.

Members of the Cal Poly community who develop symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, should seek medical care as they would for any other illness. If you are feeling sick, please do not come to class or work, but please do let us know as you normally would: by contacting your supervisor or professors.

In addition, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last night that California public health officials have issued an updated policy on gatherings to protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19. The state's public health experts have determined that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March. Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.

We realize that this situation may be upsetting. Students can contact Cal Poly's Counseling Services and 24/7 hotline at (805) 756-2511. Faculty and staff can contact the Employee Assistance Program for confidential counseling services (available to employees and their families) at (800) 367-7474.

We will get through this challenging situation, together.

Jeffrey D. Armstrong
Coronavirus / Health / San Luis Obispo County
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Lindsay Zuchelli

Lindsay Zuchelli is the Executive Producer at NewsChannel 3-12.