In an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Naval Postgraduate School nixed the winter quarter graduation ceremony slated for March 27.

The California institution’s move came after a wave of public ceremony cancellations across the Navy, including for Officer Candidate School and Recruit Training Command graduates. On Thursday, U.S. Naval Academy officials also announced that the institution was delaying the return of midshipmen from spring break through March 28.

“We are disappointed to have to cancel our upcoming graduation, and miss this momentous occasion to take pride in our students’ academic achievements,” said retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, the president of the Naval Postgraduate School, in a release posted on its official website.

“Publicly conferring our credentials to our students is a celebration of individual commitment, persistence, perseverance and personal accomplishment. Given current circumstances, ensuring the health and welfare of our NPS personnel and their families must take priority.

“After a thorough risk assessment, we concluded that this level of gathering posed an unnecessary risk of exposure. We cancel this graduation out of an obligation to sustain NPS’ essential mission of providing graduate-level education, and out of an obligation to the worldwide mission our graduating students have been preparing for, and must execute.”

Rondeau’s decision affects 170 graduating students, who will be invited to participate in a future ceremony. They will receive their diplomas privately, according to the school.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among faculty, staff or students at the Monterey Peninsula, California, school.

According to the California Department of Public Health, as of Thursday morning authorities were tracking 198 positive cases of the coronavirus that originated in China and spread worldwide.

Four California residents have died.

The reported cases are clustered in the Bay Area and surrounding counties. Officials said that 11,100 residents are self-monitoring in 49 communities after returning from travel abroad.

Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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