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State colleges make plans to deal with coronavirus

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South Carolina’s two largest universities are dealing with fluid plans in response to concerns about novel coronavirus.

As cases of COVID-19 rise across the country and reach South Carolina, Clemson University had not yet modified plans for spring break or operations early Wednesday afternoon, but the university has laid the groundwork for a transition to online instruction if necessary. In Columbia, the University of South Carolina extended spring break another week until March 22, canceled all campus events throughout that week and anounced a shift to online classes through April 3. 

Clemson University informed staff and students Wednesday that a student being monitored for COVID-19 tested negative, which Laurie Haughey, the university’s institutional and operational communications director, said is “very welcome news.”

Haughey said a group is working to create an updated preventive response strategy, including a possible transition to online coursework for the rest of the semester. The university will release a “frequently asked questions” portal for faculty and staff on the university’s website later today following state protocol, she said.

“Our foremost concern is our students, our faculty, staff and visitors to Clemson’s campus, of course,” Haughey said. “In order to stay ahead of things, we have anticipated every single question a faculty or staff member might have.”

She said leave-eligible employees can use sick leave while isolated or under quarantine. Employees without leave eligibility can discuss the situation with their supervisors and either work remotely or take leave without pay.

If the university does transition to online-learning platforms after spring break, Haughey said that dining and other student services options will remain open on campus.

“I think Clemson has stayed ahead of the situation in all regards,” she said.

The University of South Carolina said in a news release that all faculty, staff, or students returning from a level three CDC travel warning country will be required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

The university will remain open, with residence halls, food services and limited transit functioning. Students are encouraged not to return to campus from March 16 until April 3 but will not be prohibited from doing so, the school said. 

All intercollegiate athletics competition is expected to continue, though home contests will be played without fans until at least March 30, USC said. The NCAA announced Wednesday that its annual men's and women's basketball tournaments will be held without fans, restricting attendance to essential personnel and limited family members.

On Thursday, the NCAA canceled all postseason play.

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

Reach Molly Hulsey at 864-720-1223.

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