The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a turn for the worse, especially for colleges. The current nationwide surge in coronavirus infections is causing states and their colleges to reinstitute dramatic evasive measures. I reviewed the latest news releases and will post some highlights below.
Not only are college students being affected by imminent lockdowns, but so are those at high schools, middle and elementary schools. Of course, all manner of businesses, from restaurants to health clubs, are going to be required to either close or dramatically alter their operational routines once again.
Inside Higher Education just came out with an excellent summary of the latest college-related reactions to the surge. If you have time to find out what's happening, you can read the entire article here. If you just need to feel the pulse of what's going on, check my summary to see how colleges are or will be operating post-Thanksgiving. You may be surprised.
Missouri Shifts Plans to All Online After Thanksgiving
… The University of Missouri has shifted its plans and will no longer offer in-person classes after Thanksgiving, The Kansas City Star reported.
Students are being asked to go home for Thanksgiving and not return until January.
"We believe these actions will support our community, and will provide the best path forward for our university's return to in-person learning in the spring semester," Mun Choi, the Columbia campus's chancellor and president of the University of Missouri's four-campus system, said in a letter. … More details below.
King's College Will Go All Online
… King's College, in Pennsylvania, will go all online after today's [November 13] classes. The college also suspended National Collegiate Athletic Association athletics and intramurals ...
Ivy League Calls off Winter Sports Season
… The Ivy League said late Thursday [November 12] that it would cancel its winter sports season because of the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming the first conference that plays Division I men's and women's basketball to make that call ...
… The league was the first major conference to call off its fall sports season as well. Ivy officials also said Thursday that the conference will not conduct competition for fall sports during the upcoming spring semester, as it had said it might. The league also said that its members would postpone any spring sports at least until the end of February ...
Assumption Locks Down Campus
… Assumption University locked down its campus this morning [October 30] and will remain locked down for at least one week, CBS Boston reported.
Assumption cited a rise in COVID-19 cases.
All classes will be online. Students will only be allowed to leave their residence hall, floor or apartment to pick up meals, for medical emergencies or twice-per-week COVID-19 testing ...
Duquesne Suspends All Greek Activities
[October 29] … Duquesne University has suspended all Greek activity on the campus because of "repeated and egregious" violations of COVID-19 rules … A letter to Greek organizations said that members held gatherings over the 25-person indoor limit and threw parties that violated both coronavirus policies and "more typical conduct standards." It also said that members of sororities and fraternities were deliberately misleading in an attempt to limit contact tracing. "At a time when the university and, indeed, our region needed you most to live the values you espouse, as a system you failed to do so. Furthermore, you deliberately persisted in behaviors known to endanger people," the letter said ...
The above highlights are just a few from IHE's long article about how dramatically COVID-19 has changed college plans for the remaining fall semester and beyond. As I was writing this, two additional high-profile news items appeared, both of which have direct implications on higher (and other levels of) education.
Michigan, Utah Shift Schedules
First, from Michigan:
In-person classes at high schools and colleges statewide will be suspended for three weeks along with eat-in dining at restaurants and bars under sweeping new restrictions aimed at reining in the exponential growth of coronavirus cases in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Sunday.
The new public health order is to take effect Wednesday, and includes the cancellation of organized sports and group exercise classes, though gyms may remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures, and professional and college athletics may continue …
… The announcement comes as Michigan marked its worst seven-day stretch yet in the pandemic last week, when 44,019 people were newly diagnosed with the virus and 416 died. The state is now seeing exponential growth that is nearly four times higher than it was during the peak of the virus surge in early April, and hospitals say they are filling up with COVID-19 patients ...
And in Utah:
In Utah public schools, the new guidelines impact extracurriculars and sports, and college students will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests.
The weekly testing rule applies to students living on campus or who take at least one on-campus class per week. At the University of Utah, that will be an estimated 18,000 students each week.
"The testing, especially, a-symptomatic testing is going to be another tool to help us reduce the spread," said Chris Nelson, a spokesperson for the University of Utah…
… "With our students what we're talking about is who is in your social bubble? Who are the seven to ten friends that you're going to hang out with this winter, and what rules are you going to put in place?" said Nelson …
There are far too many examples of currently in-person colleges going virtual after Thanksgiving. If you would like to review a long list of stories about that situation, check this Google list. Here's one example that expands on Inside Higher Ed's news above:
The University of Missouri has made the decision to not have students immediately return following Thanksgiving break. The decision was made in an effort to help all of Columbia mitigate the spread of the virus despite the university reducing its active coronavirus caseload by 80 percent since Labor Day weekend, the university said in a Thursday news release.
"At this point, the university is successfully managing the pandemic. Our active case load has been reduced by 80 percent since Labor Day weekend, our contact tracers and investigators are responding within 24 hours of notification, and our community continues to be vigilant in observing best practices to reduce the risk of spreading the virus."
Despite these improvements, MU announced Thursday it will shift a majority of in-person undergraduate and graduate courses to remote learning for the last three weeks of instruction and final exams following Thanksgiving break …
This has been just a brief roundup of information about the major impact of new COVID-19 infection surge on higher education. Yes, there is encouraging vaccine news, but some experts have been quick to buffer our excitement. There's a long way to go, and college students (and administrators) are no doubt growing weary of the journey.