UPDATED: University of Arkansas will move to online classes if local coronavirus case is found

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

UPDATE: All on-campus classes have been canceled for the remainder of the semester beginning Monday, March 16.

University of Arkansas faculty have been told to prepare and practice conducting courses online as officials brace for a local coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

On-campus classes are continuing, but the message to instructors is to be ready to deliver all classes online or through an alternate method by March 30.

The primary scenarios that would trigger suspension of on-campus classes would be a confirmation of the virus within the campus community or in the Fayetteville community.

Chancellor Joe Steinmetz on Wednesday announced that all university-sponsored travel outside the state would be suspended for 60 days, effective immediately.

“I understand that this decision will impact many on our campus but we feel it is in the best interest of the health and well-being of all involved,” Steinmetz said.

Officials said the suspension could be extended in the future, and that appeals may be made to the appropriate vice chancellor.

Additionally, all students currently traveling abroad on university-sponsored trips will be instructed to return as soon as possible.

While the local community has not yet had a confirmed case of COVID-19, the first positive case in the state was reported Wednesday in Pine Bluff, which led Gov. Asa Hutchinson to declare a public-health emergency.

“Gov. Asa Hutchinson is also limiting official travel outside the state,” Steinmetz said. “Gov. Hutchinson’s recent declaration that state employees must seek cabinet-approval to travel out of state for the next 60 days does not apply to higher educational institutions, however the COVID-19 steering committee recommended this approach for our campus given it aligns with the governor’s direction, growing campus concerns, and the World Health Organization’s upgrade of COVID-19 to pandemic status.”