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Coronavirus pandemic interrupts RU semester

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

When Rochester University students and employees started hearing about a new virus named COVID-19, first detected in Wuhan, China, in early 2020, the RU community had no idea how the normal routine of campus life and of everyone’s personal life would be impacted. 

The coronavirus halted much of daily life in China and then started making its way across the globe with hot spots soon occuring in Italy, Spain and then in the United States. 

When RU was on Spring Break from March 9-13, the situation was becoming more dire around the world and in Michigan.

On March 10, Michigan announced its first presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency to maximize efforts to slow the spread.

Classes move online; campus closes

Responding to the expanding crisis, Dr. Brian Stogner, RU president, announced that all seated, face-to-face and hybrid courses would be taught fully online. At first the change was only in effect until March 22, but as the coronavirus spread across the state, the administration continued to follow the governor’s lead. 

By March 19, Stogner announced that all classes would be conducted fully online until the end of the semester.  He also closed the campus, and wrote in an email to employees: “In an effort to maximize our efforts to protect the health and well-being of our community, effective tomorrow (March 20) we are enacting a work-at-home policy for all of our campus offices. We will lock down buildings, (with the exception of the Campus Center, as we continue to house and feed dozens of students on campus.) All offices and functions will continue to remain open, but we will conduct our business remotely.”

Stogner also announced the postponement of the May 2 commencement ceremony, and the cancellation of the April 24 Capstone Conference, formerly known as Academic Symposium, and Academic Awards Ceremony. 

Michigan shuts down

Daily life for all Michigan residents began to change dramatically as Whitmer signed an executive order on March 16, temporarily closing many public establishments and limiting restaurants to delivery and carry-out orders only. This was followed by the closure of hair, nail and tanning salons and other non-essential personal care services on March 21. 

Then life really came to a halt when the governor signed a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, effective on March 24 for at least the next three weeks. This order instructed individuals to “only leave their home or place of residence under very limited circumstances, and they must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they do so, including remaining at least 6 feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible.”

At the time of this writing on April 5, almost 13,000 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Michigan with 479 deaths, according to

Oakland County, the home of Rochester University, reported more than 2,500 confirmed cases with 136 deaths. 

Coronavirus changes life

Michiganders are staying home, washing their hands often, maintaining a 6-foot social distance from others, and wearing masks when venturing out for essential needs. 

Stogner reminded students and employees to continue following advice given by the CDC and government to make sure that students and faculty are safe and healthy. 

“As we all work together to continue to accomplish the mission of Rochester University in the face of unprecedented circumstances, I have been so impressed with how we have pulled together to serve our students and each other,” he wrote in an email to staff. 

While spring semester 2020 turned out to be different than expected and probably unlike any that will be experienced by the institution, the RU community banded together to continue learning, teaching and staying connected to each other. 

Read more of Shield's in-depth coverage about RU and the impact of COVID-19



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