WIU to extend Spring Break and move all classes to “alternative format”

Devon Greene, Editor-in-Chief

Western Illinois University is extending their Spring Break for one week and will also move all classes to an “alternative format” until at least April 3 due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that has taken the world by storm.

In a press release released this morning, the university announced that all classes are cancelled from March 14-20 and will resume in an alternative format on March 21. This change will stay in effect until at least April 3. 

Western announced that the university’s residence halls will re-open at 10 a.m. on Sunday but that students may stay at their homes until further notice. All faculty and staff will also resume their normal work on Sunday. 

In terms of events on campus, all events with more than 50 participants between now and April 3 have been cancelled, unless deemed as essential for university operations. 

The announcement comes just one day after the World Health Organization labeled the current outbreak of Coronavirus as a pandemic and announcements of travel bans rocked the nation. A pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease. According to the WHO, more than 124,000 people in at least 114 countries have been infected with COVID-19. On Wednesday night, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced a 30-day travel ban from Europe to the United States or vice versa with very few exceptions.

Western is far from the first university in the United States to take action against the Coronavirus. The University of Illinois, Northwestern University and Illinois State University were the first colleges in Illinois to announce drastic changes to their campus operations on Wednesday when they announced that classes will be moved to online formats for several weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Southern Illinois University, Quincy University and the University of Chicago are just a few more in the state to make changes to their operations. 

On Tuesday, Western announced that they were cancelling all upcoming school travel, international business and summer study abroad trips until Aug. 1. In the press release, they said that there are no confirmed Coronavirus cases at WIU, but the university has plans in place to keep the campus safe. University Relations said the university has students in Ecuador, Brazil and Galapagos over Spring Break and those students may need to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the United States. Before Spring Break, Western sent an email out to the campus community with tips on how to stay safe and maintain their health during their trips over the break. 

Western has also set up a page on their website for updates on the Coronavirus and the health of the Western Illinois University Community. 

The pandemic has stunned the entire globe and has caused unprecedented effects across the United States. On Wednesday, the NBA and G-League both suspended their seasons after Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the Coronavirus. Multiple NBA teams have been quarantined after being in contact with Gobert over the last week, including the Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Raptors. Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, was diagnosed with the Coronavirus this morning. 

Collegiate sports have also taken a hit. The fate of the annual March Madness tournament is up in the air with the safety of the players hanging in the balance. As it currently stands, many of the games will be played with either no fans, or limited fans in attendance. However, with the announcement of Gobert’s diagnosis, many across sports media are calling for the tournament to be postponed all together. 

High school sports across Illinois have decided to continue their operations but have announced significant alterations. The Illinois High School Association is currently hosting the IHSA Boys Basketball State Series and numerous other events and earlier today, they announced that they will limit attendance severely. After a consultation with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Peoria City/County Health Department, the Association announced that no more than 60 spectators per school are allowed in the arena for each contest.