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Timeline of Recent Events


March 12, 2020

On March 12, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency for the District, and the DC Department of Health recommended that non-essential mass gatherings, including conferences and conventions, be postponed or canceled. Based on this information, online classes will continue for the rest of the semester beginning Wednesday, March 18.

Students were encouraged to leave residence halls as soon as possible and return to their permanent addresses by no later than Monday, March 23. Students with extraordinary circumstances were to contact the Office of Campus Life for assistance.

The university announced its transition to an expanded telework environment for the majority of operations from Monday, March 16 to Sunday, April 5. The university is not closed, but limited services are available on campus, and, to the extent possible, many services are provided online. President’s Council members coordinated teleworking arrangements with their divisions, and these arrangements will be re-evaluated as necessary. 

Study abroad programs were canceled and all students were instructed to return immediately to their permanent addresses.

All university-sponsored domestic travel was suspended through Tuesday, May 5, while the university-sponsored international travel ban announced March 5 remained in effect.

All university events—including the Washington College of Law, which is on a different calendar—were suspended through Tuesday, May 5. Everyone was encouraged to use teleconferencing and virtual meeting tools for private meetings and email and instant messaging, where appropriate. Depending on the exact circumstances, very limited exceptions to the travel and event suspensions will be made on a case-by-case basis by the AU president, provost, or appropriate vice president.

March 10, 2020

On March 10, AU announced that all classes will temporarily move to online platforms following spring break. Spring break will be extended through Tuesday, March 17, and on Wednesday, March 18 all American University classes and instruction will move fully online. Washington College of Law (WCL) classes will begin online on Monday, March 23, following their spring break next week, and continue through April 3. All in-person classes are currently scheduled to resume on Monday, April 6.

During this time, campus will remain open and operational. Core functions and services for students, such as the Counseling Center and academic advising, will remain available and will also be accessible remotely. Further information for faculty and staff will come from Human Resources and department leadership.

March 5, 2020

On March 5, AU suspended all international travel, effectively immediately, until further notice.This includes Alternative Break trips and individual and group travel outside the United States. AU students who are currently abroad on academic year or semester long programs in countries that have Level 2 or below travel advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) remain in place at this time. We know this is both an inconvenience and a disappointment to many who had upcoming international travel plans, but the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation in many parts of the world requires us to take the appropriate steps to safeguard our students, faculty, and staff. Refunds will be arranged for anyone who has already made reservations for university-sponsored international travel.


February 29, 2020

On February 29, the CDC raised its alert for Italy to Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel. In response to this guidance, the university notified AU students studying abroad in Italy that they should return to the United States as soon as possible. All university-sponsored travel to Italy has been suspended. The CDC recommends for people who have spent time in Italy in the last 14 days and exhibit symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing to monitor their health, practice good health hygiene, and contact their medical provider. There is no self-quarantine guidance for travelers returning from Italy at this time.

February 26, 2020

On February 26, due to an increase in COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in South Korea, the CDC raised its advisory level to Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel. In response to this guidance, the university notified AU students studying abroad (or planning to travel) in South Korea that they should return to the United States as soon as possible. All university-sponsored travel to South Korea was suspended.

The CDC also raised its advisory level for Japan to Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions. At this time, American University has not changed the status for travel or in-country educational programs, but continues to monitor these developing situations and will make further decisions based on guidance from U.S. health authorities. Under a Level 2, the CDC recommends enhanced precautions, particularly for high-risk travelers who may be more susceptible to infectious diseases (e.g., older adults and those with chronic medical conditions).

February 3, 2020

On February 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated interim guidance that expanded upon the information from Secretary Azar. These guidelines more clearly state that measures such as self-quarantine (effective as of February 3) “do not apply retrospectively to people who have been in China during the previous 14 days and are already in the United States.” However, they also stated that “state and local jurisdictions may make risk management decisions that differ from those recommended here.”


January 31, 2020

On January 31, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for the entire United States, and reiterated that the risk to the U.S. public remains low. The new guidance issued at that time instituted the following measures as of Sunday, February 2 at 5 p.m. EST to increase the government’s ability to detect and contain the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

  • Any returning U.S. citizens who have been to Hubei Province in China within the previous two weeks will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they are provided proper medical care and health screening.
  • Any returning U.S. citizens who have been to other parts of China within the previous two weeks will undergo proactive health screening at the airport and up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine to insure they have not contracted the virus and do not pose a public health risk.
  • A Presidential proclamation was signed to temporarily suspend entry of foreign nationals who present with risk of infection. Foreign nationals other than immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have traveled in China in the previous two weeks will be denied entry to the United States.

January 28, 2020

On January 28, following the Level 3: Avoid Nonessential travel alert from CDC, AU notified students studying abroad in China that they must return to the United States as soon as possible. The Office of Campus Life and AU Abroad worked with the students to support their return and make academic arrangements for the remainder of the semester. Additionally, all university-sponsored travel to China was suspended.