USC extends spring break, cancels classes out of concern over coronavirus

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The University of South Carolina has extended its spring break an additional week as a result of the rapidly-spreading coronavirus.

Spring break will now run through March 22, and no classes will be held during that time, USC officials said on the university’s website.

“Classes and all campus events will be canceled for the week after spring break, March 16-22 as the university monitors the impact of COVID-19 in South Carolina and makes additional plans,” officials said.

Following that, all classes from March 23 to April 3 will be conducted virtually, the university said.

“All face-to-face instruction in lectures, discussion sections, seminars and other similar classroom settings will be suspended,” USC officials said.

During this period the university will remain open — including residence halls, food services and limited transit, officials said.

Students are encouraged not to return to campus before April 3, but they will not be barred from coming back, according to the university.

“Students are urged to use their best judgment when making this decision, taking into account any preexisting health conditions and alternative housing options,” USC officials said.

The cancellations will not affect Gamecock athletics. All USC sporting events are expected to continue, the university said, cautioning that it will alert fans should this change.

“This unprecedented public health challenge demands that all of us do our part for the public good. It is in this spirit that we ask each of you to rise to the occasion and remain flexible over the coming weeks,” USC President Bob Caslen said in a news release.

In less than a week, there have been nine confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

As of Wednesday morning, there are no known coronavirus cases on USC’s campus, the university said.

The Gamecocks sister school, the University of South Carolina Aiken, also announced it is extending spring break through March 20.

“As the University of South Carolina Aiken continues to monitor the spread of (coronavirus), our first concern is the health, welfare and safety of our students, staff, faculty, and community,” Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan said in a nes release. “We are currently working with (DHEC and the CDC) to determine an appropriate response that proactively protects at-risk populations and reduces possible spread of the virus among campus constituents.”

In the Upstate, Clemson University is monitoring a possible case of coronavirus on campus. Clemson said the potential COVID-19 patient is not a student and the test came back negative.

That person is not hospitalized, and is currently in self-quarantine at their off-campus residence, according to Clemson.

Of the nine presumptive positive coronavirus cases in South Carolina, two of them have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — one in Camden, and one in Charleston, state officials said. The others have been tested by DHEC and are awaiting confirmation by the CDC.

Both of those who have confirmed cases of coronavirus are “stable,” state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said.

Seven of the nine cases reported in South Carolina are in Kershaw County.

“We now have evidence of community spread that’s likely to be causing these initial cases in Camden in Kershaw County and the risk of spread to other communities is possible, as seen in other states across the country,” Bell said. “We are working with the CDC and state and local officials to limit community spread while continuing with our protocol for identifying travel-related cases in the state.”

As of Wednesday morning, 121,098 people worldwide have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 4,366 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, 1,039 people have been diagnosed with the novel virus. Twenty-nine deaths have been reported, including 23 in Washington state, according to Johns Hopkins.

Symptoms of coronavirus vary from mild to severe and include coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.

The best way to prevent infection is to wash hands for 20 seconds; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; avoid contact with sick people and clean frequently touched objects with a cleaning spray or wipe, according to the CDC.

It does not matter whether the water is hot or cold, Bell said.

Prisma Health is offering free access to medical professionals for those who think they may have coronavirus, The State reported. People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can go to https://www.prismahealth.org/virtual-visit/ and schedule a free online visit, Prisma officials said.

The U.S. Surgeon General has urged members of the public to avoid buying protective masks because they are ineffective at preventing coronavirus, and buying them saps vital resources for health officials who need them.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.