These Colorado Universities are going online to combat coronavirus threat

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The University of Colorado at Boulder is suspending all in-person classes for the rest of the semester amid fears the coronavirus could spread among the school’s 35,000 students.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano wrote in a letter to students, faculty and staff Wednesday that professors will begin teaching online Monday. Much of the campus, including residence and dining halls, libraries, rec centers, the health center and student union, is expected to remain open.

“We will get through this together. … The risk of not acting outweighs the inconvenience of these temporary measures,” DiStefano said.

Other schools turned to online courses, including the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

Colorado College announced Tuesday that it was extending spring break for an extra week and will shift to online courses when students return at the end of March.

Colorado State University said it will extend spring break by another week and move classes online until April 10.

The schools’ decisions come after Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in Colorado that he says will allow him to take measures to slow the spread of coronavirus and limit economic disruption.

The state on Wednesday ordered employers in certain industries to provide up to four days of paid sick leave for workers with flu-like symptoms being tested for the virus. The Department of Labor and Employment rules were issued under Polis’ emergency declaration.

Polis says he wants workers in key industries to stay home if they get sick, rather than expose others because they’re worried about losing their jobs.

Wednesday’s order, in effect for at least 30 days, affects the leisure and hospitality industries, food services, child care, education, nursing home and community living, as well as home health firms working with the at-risk elderly and the disabled. The sick leave requirement isn’t a substitute for sick leave already provided by an employer.

The department said it is studying expanding unemployment insurance eligibility and other options to help those who test positive and cannot report to work. Currently, unemployment insurance benefits cover those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared coronavirus a pandemic. It says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks.

The number of people in Colorado who have tested positive for the virus has risen to at least 33, including several in Pitkin County who had been in contact with an Australian visitor to Aspen who tested positive after returning home.

In the Denver metro area, a state-run drive-thru testing facility opened Wednesday, accepting only people with a doctor’s order. A Denver public elementary school closed for cleaning after a parent of two students tested positive. Buckley Air Force Base in suburban Denver also closed a child care center after a parent tested positive.

AP and PULP contributed to this report.