Coronavirus Impact: Statewide University Closures, Sporting Events Canceled
The spread of coronavirus has caused plummeting stocks, university closures, and empty arenas as the local impact of COVID-19 continues to escalate. Thousands of people have died, and as of Thursday, there were nine confirmed cases in Minnesota.
In Minneapolis, buses are operating with many open seats during peak hours, and the number of skyway walkers has thinned noticeably.
Following in the footsteps of University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas on Thursday shut down all of its in-person classes, moving to online instruction where possible. Events with more than 50 people have been canceled, and domestic travel restrictions have been enacted, too.
“The information we have received to date from health officials indicates the risk to our community is low. We know from watching events unfold in other countries and regions, however, that this illness can spread rapidly,” said Julie Sullivan, the university’s president, in a statement.
Colleges and universities in the Minnesota State system have extended spring break, with classes suspended through March 22. For schools with a later spring break, the suspension lasts through March 29. State travel, in addition to international travel, is now restricted as well.
“While there will be no classes during each campuses’ extra week, administrators, faculty, and staff will spend that week exploring alternative modes of delivery and adjust campus learning spaces to ensure the safety of our communities,” said Devinder Malhotra, the Minnesota System chancellor, in a statement.
Campuses will remain open, however. That includes residence halls, dining facilities, and student services.
Outside of education, sports are taking a major hit from the spread of the virus, too. The NCAA has canceled both the March Madness games and Wrestling Championships, which had been scheduled for March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert in a statement.
Major League Baseball has suspended opening day by at least two weeks, and spring training games have been canceled. In response, the Minnesota Twins have canceled its six remaining home spring training games and one exhibition game.
The National Hockey League also has immediately suspended games due to the spread of coronavirus, which means the Minnesota Wild’s game against Vegas at the Xcel Energy Center is off.
Gyms are taking similar precautions, urging clientele to stay home if ill and to use sanitization products available.
In arts, New York City’s Broadway has shut down. As of Thursday afternoon, the Ordway and Hennepin Theatre Trust plan to continue performances.
In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has closed, though the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Walker remain open. However, Mia has cancelled all events, activities, and tours, and has closed its Family Center, removed touch screens, and suspended the Art Carts program.
The Cowles Center has encouraged people who feel ill to stay home, and said that it’s taking precautions like having staff wear gloves and increasing cleaning procedures.
The state’s healthcare system is ramping up, with clinics starting to offer curbside testing as a way to reduce risk for contamination.
If you or someone you know is unsure if symptoms are indicative of coronavirus, the Bloomington-based 24/7 online clinic Virtuwell is now offering a free online assessment for COVID-19 testing. The HealthPartners virtual clinic tool is available to everyone and doesn’t require a login or demographic information, said Theresa Havalad, a family nurse practitioner and the care delivery manager for Virtuwell.
“The CDC website is an excellent resource for people if they’re looking for information. I think the difference with our tool is we’re going to walk you through that criteria, and then we’re going to have that follow-up experience,” she said. “Being connected directly with a healthcare professional who can kind of walk you through your individual situation and help you make those decisions is really, really helpful.”
If determined to meet high-risk criteria for coronavirus, people will be connected with a nurse practitioner to figure out the next best steps, Havalad said.
“There’s a lot of information going around and a lot of worries going around, so we’re really in a good position to help answer people’s questions, put their mind at ease, but also to treat their symptoms,” she said.
Within the next few days, HealthPartners will also be offering curbside testing, where people can drive through and not risk contamination.