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Howard University Cancels 2020 Commencement After Reporting First Direct Coronavirus Case


Students at the 2017 Howard Commencement Ceremony. Photo by Howard University.

WASHINGTON, DC – As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the world and the United States, Howard University announced their first direct positive case of the virus and announced that the school’s commencement would be canceled.

In an emailed statement, Howard University President Wayne Frederick revealed that an attendee of their Charter Day Dinner on March 7 tested positive for COVID-19.

“A guest who attended the Howard University Charter Day Dinner has tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus),” the email read. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking all March 7 dinner participants to monitor and report to your doctor if you begin exhibiting flu-like symptoms.” Due to this the university is escalating their response to the pandemic.

Frederick also announced in this email that this year’s commencement and all class reunions are canceled.

“On Sunday, the CDC issued recommendations that for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States. Although the CDC states that this does not apply to the day to day operations of institutions of higher education, we do not consider commencement a day to day operation,” the university said in their email.

“Given that Howard’s Commencement activities garner crowds of thousands, and the numerous elders and children regularly in attendance, we will cancel the event to avoid the potential for additional virus spread which would be problematic.”

The email also announced all classes will be online for the remainder of the semester, which is an update from the university only announcing a recommendation of not returning to campus.

“We have consulted with medical and public-health experts and regrettably, our University leadership has arrived at the conclusion that a return to campus for face-to face instruction will not be possible for the Spring, 2020 semester,” the email continued. Residence halls are closing on March 22 at 11:59 p.m. and those who traveled for spring break are advised to contact the Office of Residence Life to get their belongings at a later date.

Over the past week there have been major updates and legislation regarding COVID-19. Schools all over the country have closed and began implementing remote learning. Many universities have also announced the cancellation and postponements of commencement ceremonies. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, has declared both a state of emergency and a public health emergency, which includes the closing of all bars and clubs, forcing all restaurants to go take out delivery only and closing D.C. public schools.