Duke University will extend spring break a week—with classes resuming on March 23—and rely on “long-distance practices” for the rest of the semester to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus at the school, President Vincent Price wrote in a message to students on Tuesday night.

“All undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are currently out of town for Spring Break should NOT return to the Duke campus if at all possible,” Price wrote.

Students who remain on campus will have limited access to facilities and services, though the university and Duke Health will stay open. Student activities and gatherings will be “curtailed,” Price continued. “This was not an easy decision to make and came only after reviewing the range of options available in light of the rapidly changing situation in North Carolina and nationally.”

Price said Duke’s approach is consistent with recommendations from public health officials and “mirrors the actions taken by many universities across the country.” 

Describing the canceling of the semester as “a significant disruption to everyone’s studies, research, and work,” Price called the decision “unprecedented in Duke’s history” and asked for every student’s assistance.

The university encouraged students to take seriously the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to avoid falling ill while the school comes up with a “social distancing strategy” that includes remote instruction. While college-age individuals appear less susceptible to COVID-19, Duke also includes older individuals who are at elevated risk, as well as those with compromised immune systems, underlying health issues, and other concerns that may not be visible.

The university did not offer specifics about the upcoming ACC and NCAA basketball tournaments. It did, however, say that “effective immediately,” the school would suspend Duke-sponsored “in-person” events with an expected attendance of 50 or more persons on- or off-campus until April 20, including “recruitment events, tours, student programs, reunions, performances, conferences, and social events.”

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at tmcdonald@indyweek.com. 

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