Harvard president and wife diagnosed with coronavirus as cases surge in the U.S.

President of Harvard University Lawrence S. Bacow said he and his wife Adele Fleet Bacow have tested positive for coronavirus, as the epidemic spread rapidly in the U.S. and the WHO said the country could become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We started experiencing symptoms on Sunday – first coughs then fevers, chills, and muscle aches – and contacted our doctors on Monday. We were tested yesterday and just received the results a few minutes ago," Bacow said in a letter to the Harvard community on Tuesday.

He said that neither he nor his wife know how they contracted the virus, but "far fewer people crossed our paths recently than is usually the case" because the couple worked from home and completely limited their contact with others since March 14.

"We will be taking the time we need to rest and recuperate during a two-week isolation at home," he added.

Since announcing its first case of novel coronavirus on March 13, a total of 18 members of the Harvard community have tested positive (or presumptive positive) as of March 24, according to Harvard University's official website.

Earlier this month, Harvard University asked its students to leave campus and moved classes online over coronavirus fear. It postponed the commencement last week.

Since the epidemic broke out in the country, the education sector has taken preventive measures.

On March 6, the University of Washington in Seattle on the West Coast of the U.S. said that it will cancel the in-person classes and move to remote teaching, the first university to do so in the country, after a university staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.

Although many universities followed suit, an increasing number of students and faculty members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

U.S. media reported earlier that at least five students from the University of Tampa contracted the disease after traveling with other students from the school for spring break, arousing criticism for spring-breakers packing beaches in Florida in disregard of social distancing guidelines. Many Florida beaches have since been shut down.

"We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S.," said Margaret Harris, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokeswoman at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday, adding that there is potential for the U.S. to soon become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

The confirmed cases in the U.S. have surged seven times to more than 50,000 in a week, ranking the third in the world, and the world's total cases have surpassed 400,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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(Cover image: Lawrence S. Bacow listens to speakers during his inauguration as the 29th president of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., October 5, 2018. /VCG)