US colleges mull new virus protocols for students’ return – world news

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St. Michael’s College managed to retain coronavirus cases at bay for nearly two months this fall with students tested upon arrival and once each three weeks.

But in mid-October, cases at the small Vermont school started to climb. The outbreak was once linked to an ice rink more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) absent. The liberal arts college shifted to all-remote learning and closed the campus to visitors. By November, a complete of 76 of the kind of 1,600 students had tested positive, the school said.

“It was once very concerning to experience the spike in cases that we did after such a lot of weeks of surveillance tests with no positives,” President Lorraine Sterritt said by email.

When students come back for the spring semester, St. Michael’s will begin testing them weekly. The college may additionally require students to move to a separate residence corridor when they’re told to quarantine.

The coronavirus presented enormous challenges for the fall semester for US colleges that opened the academic year with in-person learning, including some that took a battering from outbreaks. Those not joining the growing number that will offer only virtual learning are assessing how they would bring students back after the winter holidays while the country faces crushing rates of virus infections.

Schools that are bringing students back are adjusting testing protocols, introducing new screenings, and getting rid of spring breaks to discourage students from traveling to help retain campuses open.

Other schools big and small think it’s still imaginable to retain a pandemic-era residential college experience.

California Polytechnical University in San Luis Obispo plans to add saliva testing in the winter quarter that will be processed on campus and will allow it “to test many more people a lot more quickly — our current estimate is 4,000 tests per day by mid-January,” President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a campus-wide message this month.

In the spring semester, Colby College in Maine wants to add some rapid antigen tests to twice-weekly tests for students, faculty and staff. It also did absent with the one-week spring break replacing it with two mini-breaks in March and April.

“We’ll program stuff for the campus so people get a break,” Chief Financial Officer Douglas Terp said.

More schools are expected to require students get tested before they come to campus relatively than when they arrive, as some institutions did before the fall semester, said Barbara Mistick, president of the National Organization of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Institutions like Syracuse University in New York deserted in-person learning earlier than deliberate this fall but are planning on a resumption of campus life next semester.

But a growing number of schools will stick with virtual instruction through the spring.

“We are seeing a rapid rise in colleges and universities announcing they’ll move to remote learning for the rest of this semester and for the spring,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Organization of American Colleges and Universities.

George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for one, announced early final month it’ll continue most of its classes practically.

Student cooperation with protocols helped to retain the number of coronavirus cases low at the University of Vermont’s campus in the small city of Burlington, President Suresh Garimella said.

On a recent day, students wearing masks streamed through a tent outdoor the student center where they’re required to be tested weekly. They stayed apart, stopped at a station to sanitize their hands and blow their nose and then proceeded into the indoor testing center.

“It’s a part of my routine,” said sophomore Brian Boyle of the testing.

The school received federal coronavirus relief underwriting for virus-related expenses like testing, but Garimella estimates it’ll spend an extra $10 million to $15 million.

There are also a large number of precautions in place, rules for social distancing and the maximum number of people in a group, Boyle said. It’s harder to receive along side people socially, but he said students can find ways to go approximately it and still follow the rules and be protected.

“You realize being outdoor in small groups and stuff,” he said.

As cases rose in Vermont and at UVM in November, though, he said he was once fitting a bit concerned approximately if the spring semester will be in-person.

“My biggest concern is probably that people will transform more relaxed with their individual social distancing/quarantining measures over winter break,” he said by email. “I will be able to only hope that people will bear in mind how important these safety measures are, and will continue to practice them for the sake of their health and for the sake of our education.”

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