Colleges in the Midwest find themselves grappling with how and whether to continue holding classes as the coronavirus becomes of greater concern daily.

One response is to temporarily close, as Midland University in Fremont has done after a woman became critically ill with the disease following a Special Olympics basketball tournament in that community.

Another is to provide all classes online so students don’t have to go to their campuses. This seems plausible for many institutions if the virus keeps spreading.

A letter from University of Nebraska at Omaha administrators to deans Monday thanked them “for your efforts to be prepared in the event we must pivot to digital learning mode.” The letter noted, however, that “we are still in business as usual mode.”

UNO also has created a webpage for coronavirus updates related to UNO at unomaha.edu/coronavirus.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln also announced Monday that faculty members should “start preparing now for the possibility that our university may suspend in-person classes before the end of the semester.” UNL wants professors to be sure “they are capable of working remotely if necessary,” the statement said.

UNL spokeswoman Leslie Reed said “a few students and employees” were among about 40 people from the Lincoln area who had contact with the first patient diagnosed with coronavirus in Nebraska. They are under self-quarantine until March 14, which is 14 days since they were exposed. All of the UNL-related people “are asymptomatic as far as we know,” Reed said.

UNL also has a website on the coronavirus situation: covid19.unl.edu.

Creighton University, which is on spring break, is considering how to handle the threat, including with online classes. “We’re looking at our options,” Creighton spokeswoman Cindy Workman said.

Bellevue University spokeswoman Cris Hay-Merchant said most of her school’s students attend fully online anyway. The university is “thinking about moving residential courses online if needed,” she said.

Iowa State University said Monday that three positive cases of the virus have been detected in Johnson County, Iowa, residents. All were on an overseas cruise to Egypt, the university said. Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, is in Johnson County.

Iowa State said: “Stay healthy, stay informed.”

rick.ruggles@owh.com, 402-444-1123

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