As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, more and more colleges and universities in the United States continue to abruptly close their campuses for the remainder of the fall semester due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in across the country.
As the COVID-19 shutdown began last spring, colleges and universities scrambled to respond to the pandemic and keep students safe. George Mason University (GMU) study found that three-quarters of 575 colleges with more than 5,000 students transferred online classes, discouraged campus housing, canceled trips, closed campuses and worked remotely .
This study, published on October 16, analyzed college actions between February 25 and March 31.
“Spring break was this wonderful opportunity that came at the right time and gave universities the bandwidth they needed to be able to make a relatively smooth transition for spring,” said Michael von Fricken, assistant professor at GMU who worked on the study published in Plos One.
“We have reached this point where universities can only be closed for so long,” Fricken said. “It’s more and more about balancing student finances and safety.”
Universities have had to adjust again for the fall semester and the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
In the past few weeks, many universities have quickly suspended in-person classes due to the outbreak. Brown University in Rhode Island, Northern Michigan University, the University of Maryland, and Syracuse University in New York are among 41 schools that recently suspended in-person teaching.
“In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in positive tests among students, faculty and staff,” Brown University President Christina H. Paxson wrote in a letter to students on November 17.
“While Brown’s infection rates are still quite low and we have ample space for quarantine and isolation, these increases are nonetheless concerning,” Paxson wrote.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 321,000 cases of COVID-19 on college campuses and at least 80 deaths, according to New York Times data from more than 1,900 U.S. colleges and universities.
“What’s happening this fall, and what’s going to happen in the spring, are universities making up their minds, ‘Are they able to get back to campus safely? Fricken asked. “They’re going to look at the schools that have been successful and try to emulate those programs.”
The University of Pennsylvania, University of Arizona, University of California Los Angeles and Berkeley, Syracuse University, and University of Michigan are among the schools that end all in-person classes for the semester after Thanksgiving.
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