SEATTLE (AP) — The University of Washington said Friday it will stop holding classes for nearly 60,000 students at its three campuses and instead offer online instruction to help stop the spread of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
At least 79 cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus — have been confirmed in the state, most in the Seattle area. There was one case reported in Jefferson County and one in Grant County. There have been 13 deaths in Washington, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The UW said the change to online-only classes will begin Monday,and stay in effect through the end of winter quarter on March 20. The school said the campuses, including residence halls and athletic facilities, will remain open.
“We have responsibilities to our community,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce.
Seattle University, a private Jesuit school with 5,000 students, also plans to switch to online classes, while a number of K-12 schools in the Seattle region have closed due to virus fears, including the 22,000-student Northshore School District, In addition, organizers of Emerald City Comic Con, which attracts about 100,000 people, said the event has been postponed due to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, authorities said Friday that 30 medical professionals from the U.S. Public Health Service would arrive Saturday to help staff members at the suburban Seattle nursing facility where many patients have died from the coronavirus.
“We are grateful the cavalry is arriving,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said.
Constantine and other health professionals said they were frustrated with the way Life Care Center of Kirkland has communicated with patients’ families, who have complained about a lack of information about loved ones from medical staff and the government.
“We’ve had challenges with Life Care and I’m beginning to lose my patience,” Constantine said.
A total of 69 residents remain at Life Care Center and 15 others have been moved to hospitals, he said. Officials were working to run COVID-19 tests on every patient who has died at the facility, said Patty Hayes, director of health for Seattle and King County.
Relatives of Life Care Center residents held an emotional news conference Thursday outside the facility.
“We’ve been complaining for days about the lack of information we have received,” said Kevin Connolly, whose father-in-law lives at the nursing home. “If adequate controls cannot be put in place, we want our loved ones moved to a safe location immediately.”
The families still don’t know when their relatives will be tested for the coronavirus or what will happen to them based on the results, Connolly said. They want anyone who tests negative to be immediately removed from the facility.
In a statement on its website, Life Care said it has been working on-site with local, state and federal authorities and that people still in the facility are being monitored closely.
“Our associates are the true heroes in this fight, overcoming their own fears and concerns about the disease to faithfully show up and work sacrificially for our residents,” the statement said. “We grieve with the families who have lost loved ones.”
Gov. Jay Inslee said an incident command group will support nursing homes and long-term facilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Hayes said as many as 500 people in the community were being monitored after being told to sequester themselves. An influx of federal funding was expected to help keep up with demands.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has sent inspectors to Life Care along with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine how the coronavirus outbreak happened and whether the nursing home followed guidelines for preventing infections.