The Colby College campus is seen in this Feb. 8, 2019, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

As of 12 p.m. Thursday, March 12, test results show that one Mainer has tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

Colby College on Thursday became the latest Maine university to move to hold its classes remotely for the remainder of the spring amid the developing coronavirus pandemic.

That news comes as the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also announced Thursday that a 50-year-old woman from Androscoggin County tested positive for the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

Colby President David A. Greene said Thursday that the college has “insufficient capacity” to handle the challenges from a coronavirus outbreak on campus, and that its “close-knit quarters” makes Colby “especially vulnerable to a widespread contagion.”

“[S]eeing how the world has literally changed overnight, I no longer believe that we would be able to adequately secure the health and safety of our community — the most sacred obligation we have to you — if we continued with our residential program. This is a devastating decision for me to make, and I know it will be even more distressing for many of you,” Greene said in an announcement to the campus community.

Colby will continue to hold classes through the end of the week, as well as activities scheduled through Saturday. All students “who can reasonably do so” have been asked to move off campus by March 15, when Colby’s two-week spring break begins, as faculty prepare to resume courses online remotely. Courses are expected to resume March 30 and continue according to the normal schedule.

Greene acknowledged that the decision will “create special hardships” for some students, but that the decision could not be avoided without placing students, faculty and staff who are vulnerable to serious complications at “unnecessary risk.”

“That would run counter to everything we stand for in our community,” Greene said.

The college president said an “emergency fund” was being set up to assist students with travel and other expenses, and information will be sent to students about receiving partial reimbursements for room and board fees.

It’s unclear how this decision will affect graduating seniors, but Greene said he “hold[s] out hope that the global spread of this virus will subside quickly and that we will be able to welcome you and your families back to campus in May for the full celebration and recognition you deserve through commencement and related activities.”

Colby College is just the latest Maine university to make the move to have students complete their coursework remotely amid what the World Health Organization has called a global pandemic.

On Wednesday, Bowdoin College in Brunswick and the University of Maine System announced that students at their respective campuses have been asked to return home and continue classes remotely when they resume after spring break. Bates College in Lewiston still plans to finish classes on campus because there are no breaks between now and when the winter semester ends, on April 18.

Maine on Thursday became the last New England state to confirm a case of coronavirus. A woman in her 50s in Androscoggin County has been placed into quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus. Vermont reported its second confirmed case on Wednesday, while there have been at least 92 reported in Massachusetts, five in New Hampshire, three in Rhode Island and two in Connecticut.

Nationally, at least 938 people have been sickened by the coronavirus in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The coronavirus has caused at least 29 deaths as of Wednesday.

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