The University of Washington is closing its campuses through the end of winter quarter. (UW Bothell)

The University of Washington is closing its campuses through the end of winter quarter. (UW Bothell)

Classes online for University of Washington over virus fears

Campuses in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell will be closed through the end of winter quarter.

By Martha Bellisle and Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

SEATTLE — The University of Washington said Friday that it will stop holding classes for nearly 60,000 students at its three campuses and instead teach students online to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The change will begin Monday, and be in effect through the end of winter quarter on March 20, the university said on Twitter, though the school said the campuses will remain open.

The university has campuses in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell. The huge Seattle campus has 46,000 students. The other two campuses have about 11,000 students combined.

Authorities in Washington state have said there are at least 70 confirmed COVID-19 cases, most in the Seattle area. According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 13 coronavirus deaths in Washington state.

King County, which is dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, announced this week that it is buying a motel to quarantine coronavirus patients.

The University of Washington also announced on its website that a staff member who works in Seattle had tested positive for COVID-19. The school said the worker was self-isolating at home and that the building the person worked in has been closed as a precaution.

The school said residence halls, dining, and athletic facilities will remain open.

Other K-12 schools in the Seattle region have closed due to virus fears, at least temporarily, including a large, 22,000-student district north of Seattle that said this week it would close for two weeks. The Northshore School District is centered in Bothell.

Family members of residents of a suburban Seattle nursing home where nine people have died from the coronavirus condemned the treatment of their loved ones Thursday as Washington state authorities reported dozens more cases and an additional death.

Vice President Mike Pence also visited the state Thursday, meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee and others.

Relatives of residents at a Kirkland nursing home where nine have died from the virus held an emotional news conference outside Life Care Center. They said the facility has been overwhelmed and the government needs to do more, demanding an audience with Inslee and Pence.

“We’ve been complaining for days about the lack of information we have received,” said Kevin Connolly, whose father-in-law lives at the nursing home. “If adequate controls cannot be put in place, we want our loved ones moved to a safe location immediately.”

The families still don’t know when their relatives will be tested for the coronavirus or what will happen to them based on the results, Connolly said. They want anyone who tests negative immediately removed from the facility.

One woman, Pat Herrick, said her mother, Elaine Herrick, lived at Life Care for seven years before she died Thursday. She had not been tested for COVID-19 despite the outbreak, and it wasn’t clear whether officials could or would have her body tested, so it remained unclear why she died, the daughter said.

Herrick said that after receiving a 3:30 a.m. call informing her of her mother’s death, she then received a call around 10 a.m. from someone else at the facility saying her mother was alive and doing well. It turned out the overwhelmed nurse who called earlier had failed to update her mother’s chart to reflect her death, Herrick said.

Elaine Herrick loved living at Life Care, her daughter said, and she didn’t blame the staff for what happened, saying the facility needs more support from health officials.

Connolly was less diplomatic, though he agreed the nursing home had not received enough help.

“This is the level of incompetence we’re dealing with,” he said.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has sent inspectors to Life Care along with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out how the coronavirus outbreak happened there and to determine whether the nursing home followed guidelines for preventing infections.

Asked about the situation at the nursing home, Pence noted the federal government was investigating.

Before a meeting with state and local government officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation, the vice president thanked Inslee for his leadership on the state’s response, saying it “has really inspired the country.”

Additional reporting from Carla K. Johnson from Seattle.

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