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Harvard cancels in-person classes for the rest of the semester

Starting March 23, Harvard will not have in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester amid fears of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus, the university announced Tuesday.

“The decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly,” University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in a statement. “The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings.”

Students at Harvard release for spring break this Saturday and will begin remote classes. They are asked not to return to campus, and the university is also discouraging “non-essential” gatherings of more than 25 people.

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“Our actions are consistent with the recommendations of leading health officials on how to limit the spread of COVID-19 and are also consistent with similar decisions made by a number of our peer institutions,” Bacow added.

There are currently 755 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S., of which 41 are in Massachusetts. Harvard’s decision comes a day after its neighbor, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also canceled large in-person classes. 

“Despite our best efforts to bring the University's resources to bear on this virus, we are still faced with uncertainty — and the considerable unease brought on by uncertainty,” Bacow said.

“It will take time for researchers, a good many of them who are our colleagues, to understand enough about this disease to mount a reliable defense against it. Now more than ever, we must do our utmost to protect those among us who are most vulnerable, whether physically or emotionally, and to treat one another with generosity and respect.”