Virus spreads in Oregon, university urged to close

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The new coronavirus has spread in Oregon, with authorities reporting four new cases Wednesday in the outbreak that has reached two additional counties.

Portland State University, in Multnomah County where one case was reported on Tuesday, is recommending classes be held online when possible, including for final exams next week, but is stopping short of closing, said university spokeswoman Christina Williams.

“This is a quickly evolving situation and we are working on day-by-day guidance for our community,” Williams said by email.

Three University of Oregon associate professors who are in northern Italy, one of the epicenters of the outbreak, have written a letter urging the university in Eugene, Oregon, to close and teach online.

The university did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

“To date, the state and the university have not recognized the seriousness of the situation. There remains only a short window of time to be proactive rather than reactive,” Melissa Graboyes, Alfredo Burlando and Eleonora Redaelli wrote.

They described how Italian universities shifted entirely to online teaching at the very beginning of local transmission being detected.

They recommended the University of Oregon shift to online classes ahead of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the university community or the larger Eugene area. No cases have been reported to date in Lane County, where the university is located.

State Sen. Lew Frederick, a Democrat from Portland, told constituents in an email Wednesday that due to concerns surrounding the virus, it is best for him not to hold his usual chat this Saturday at an restaurant. He said he will instead host a digital chat via Facebook live video.

Several other lawmakers said they would hold town halls in person, but that people with compromised immune systems, older adults and those who are in close contact with them should consider avoiding it.

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