Editor's note: To follow University of New Mexico updates and guidance on COVID-19, visit http://www.unm.edu/coronavirus/
This story was last updated on March 13, 2020 at 6:36 p.m.
As universities across the country cancel in-person classes amid escalating numbers of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths, the University of New Mexico is preparing its own contingency plans amid revelations of the first presumptive cases of the virus in the state.
On Friday, March 13, UNM announced to extend Spring Break until April 5. This follows New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology both extending their respective Sprong Breaks by a week.
An all-faculty message sent on the morning of March 12 followed by a Campus Communication sent by Provost James Holloway later in the day solidified that precautions are being taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"In consultation with UNM experts on health, with UNM academic leadership and with input from other academic institutions, we are launching a strategy to continue educational activities while also contributing to a national goal to reduce the rate of transmission and infection from this virus," Holloway said in the email.
Popejoy Hall also announced on March 12 that it will be canceling all events until April 30.
UNM officials said the school hadn't identified any novel coronavirus cases among the campus community. Student Health and Counseling reported March 11 they tested two people for the virus and are waiting on results.
"At present, there is no evidence of any COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the UNM faculty, staff and student community, and UNM does not need to close or establish quarantines," the University said in a release on its dedicated coronavirus website. "However, the potential impact on our community is evolving, so we all need to remain informed, wise, and supportive."
Dozens of U.S. universities have canceled in-person classes so far, with most implementing some kind of virtual or online instruction. Most of these institutions are located in high-population areas where the coronavirus outbreak is present, such as New York, New Jersey, California and Washington state.
As of March 11, UNM was considering shifting class online, according to an email sent to all students.
"At present, we expect that classes should resume normally on March 23, 2020 after Spring Break (and also note that some students in HSC schools are already in post-break classes)," the University's latest campus update read. "However, the situation is continuously and rapidly evolving, and UNM is establishing plans for offering classes in alternative formats if a need arises due to public health directives about COVID-19."
The death toll as of March 11 for the coronavirus had increased to over 4,600 worldwide, with more than 126,000 people infected globally and over 67,000 making recoveries. The World Health Organization officially characterized the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic on March 11.
A University-wide message sent out by President Garnett Stokes' office on March 9 gave advice and guidelines to curb the spread of the virus.
Stokes announced UNM will cancel all University-related travel to countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared level 2 or level 3 countries, as well as U.S. states that have declared a state of emergency.
This includes China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan and eleven U.S. states including Utah, Colorado, Florida and California.
On March 11, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency after four state residents tested presumptively positive for COVID-19 — a couple in Soccoro County, a woman in Bernalillo County and a woman in Santa Fe County.
The number has since grown to New Mexico having ten presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus as on March 13.
UNM required all international travel be registered — regardless of CDC level designation — through an online form. Travel taken during spring break can be reported here.
"Please be aware these locations can change rapidly, and University-related travel might be canceled at the last minute," the all-University message said.
UNM mandated the cancellation of all University-related travel to these areas until May 15.
The appropriate administrators may provide travel exceptions to these areas based on "extenuating circumstances." Lobo Athletics is exempt from University-mandated travel regulations, according to the guidelines for UNM concerning COVID-19.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, UNM recommends that anyone experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus — including fever, shortness of breath and a prolonged cough — should not come to campus.
Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are advised to stay home until they feel well and their fever has subsided for at least 24 hours. Supervisors have discretion as to what type of leave be given to employees that need to stay home due to the coronavirus.
COVID-19 is part of the disease family of coronaviruses that began to spread in Wuhan, China late in 2019. The disease has since spread to more than 100 locations worldwide, according to the CDC.
A doctor's note is not required for employees experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus since UNM anticipates healthcare facilities to be busy, according to the University.
If students, faculty or staff suspect they came in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, they're advised to self-quarantine for the disease's incubation period of 14 days.
This is a developing story. The Daily Lobo will continue to cover the coronavirus' effect on UNM over the coming weeks.
Justin Garcia and Andrew Gunn contributed reporting to this article.
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria