Coronavirus Declared a Pandemic; U of M Cancels In-Person Classes

The number of cases in Minnesota, meanwhile, grows to five.

The novel coronavirus that emerged from a Chinese city is now a pandemic, the World Health Organization announced on Wednesday.

The declaration comes as the total number of cases around the world surpasses 120,000. In the United States, that number has topped 1,000. So far in Minnesota, nine people have tested positive for the virus, according to the state health department. No deaths have been recorded in Minnesota. As of Thursday morning, the health department had tested more than 300 people for the virus in the state.

On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that authorizes $21 million in state funding for a “public health response” to the virus.

Not long after the WHO declaration, the University of Minnesota canceled in-person classes at all five campuses until at least April 1. Students will receive online instruction in the meanwile, U of M president Joan Gabel said in a letter. Residence halls, dining services, and other on-campus student services will continue operations.

“While there are no known cases of COVID-19 reported in our system, as a precautionary measure to mitigate the risk of exposure to our University community, we are implementing [these] steps consistent with many of our peer institutions across the country,” Gabel said.

University of Minnesota


Beginning March 18, 2020, until at least April 1, 2020, all coursework on all five University of Minnesota campuses will be delivered online. Review President Gabel’s March 11 announcement for additional information: 

The investment community, meanwhile, is reeling. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,300 points on Wednesday, while the Nasdaq Composite fell more than 4 percent. Businesses are struggling to find a way to continue operations while protecting their workers. Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, a law firm with offices in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, on Tuesday closed all its offices after two visitors at its D.C. location tested positive for the virus.

The firm reopened all but two of its offices on Wednesday.

Dozens of in-person conferences and events have been canceled or flipped to webcasts or conference calls. (Even a conference on coronavirus has been canceled.) J.P. Morgan’s yearly Industrials Conference, for instance, became a series of webcasts and virtual panel discussions. 3M CEO Mike Roman, who presented at the conference on Tuesday, said the company is “continuing to work with our distributors, governments, and medical officials to make sure we’re getting supplies to where they’re most needed.”

“For the foreseeable future, we expect the demand for respirators to outpace our supply,” Roman told investors. The company hasn’t been raising prices on its products during the outbreak, he added.

At the same time, health insurers in Minnesota and around the country have said they’ll waive testing fees for coronavirus. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said all U.S. insurers will pay for tests for the virus.