AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin will move all classes online for the rest of the spring semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier in March, the university announced the decision to extend spring break for an additional week until March 30. Other colleges in Central Texas have also extended spring break.

"Starting on March 30, we will be moving all spring semester classes online. We are asking students not to return to campus this semester unless there is a specific need," UT tweeted on March 17.

UT officials said when classes resume on March 30, undergraduate and graduate instruction will transition to remote delivery through Zoom, Canvas and other methods. UT also announced that students are required to move home from their residence halls and emergency housing will be available on a case-by-case basis. The university said the emergency housing would go to students who have compelling reasons to remain on campus, or who do not have other living arrangements. Students who are not currently on campus will need to sign up online for a time to move out starting on Monday, March 23.

KVUE spoke with two exchange students who were figuring out what to do.

Stone Chen, an engineering major from Australia, plans to apply for UT's emergency housing, but he'll consider flying back home if he's denied.

"Even if I go back home, it's still online courses – online for the home university or here. I still want to do it here because I already did most of the work," Chen said.

Liam Persson, a graduate engineering student from Sweden, will likely fly back home to Sweden, although he said it may be hard to find a flight.

"It's very sad because I've really been looking forward to this trip for a long time. I was very excited for living in America for a semester. It's sad that maybe it'll just be two months," Persson said.

UT said it will also offer pro-rated refunds on housing and dining contracts and coordinate those decisions with financial aid packages. 

All on-campus programs, gatherings and events with more than 10 people through May 1 will be canceled, postponed or moved online, according to university officials. UT officials said they would assess the public health situation to determine whether any public ceremonies are appropriate in regards to May commencement.  

While graduating students will receive their degrees on time, the graduation ceremony will be postponed, most likely until the fall, UT said on Tuesday.

The morning of March 13, Austin Public Health confirmed two cases in Travis County. Following this announcement, UT canceled all Friday classes and university operations and said only "essential personnel" should work. The number of COVID-19 cases in Travis County has since grown to 17 as of March 17.

WATCH: UT takes precautions against COVID-19

City leaders are asking the Austin public to not panic and to practice good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

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