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Back to School
Updated Sept. 11, 2020
The latest on how schools are reopening amid the pandemic.
So far, the university has recorded no hospitalizations or deaths among students, a university spokeswoman said. Still, some in the community are nervous.
“Everyone goes to the same places in Oxford, and I don’t think the students are careful,” said Megan Bernstein, 47, who said she had grown up in the town and was there to visit her father.
Trenton Jordan, 21, a junior, agreed. “Probably 99.99 percent of the people, when they go to an off-campus party, aren’t wearing a mask,” he said. “Most college kids are not worried about the virus.”
In Springfield, Mo., David Hinson, executive vice president of Drury University, said he has wrestled with whether to send students home should infections there continue rising. They spiked after school started in August, and he expects they may spike again now, after Labor Day. Most of Drury’s 1,416 undergraduates live within three hours of campus, and so could have left the campus bubble to go home over the long weekend.
Drury currently has about 30 active cases, but its cumulative total — now about 85 cases — has steadily risen. About 875 students are living on campus this fall, in single rooms, down from 1,090 in a normal year. All classes are being held in person, but Mr. Hinson said that as far as he knows, no one has been infected in the classroom. The risk, he said, is greater in the dorms.
Lacking guidelines from the state, the university worked with the local health department and decided that it would look for outbreaks from class to class and put those classes online for two weeks, rather than shutting down the entire school. No classes have been shut down so far, he said.
“It’s not simply a hard number, like if you have 100 active cases,” Mr. Hinson said. “That is a very ham-fisted way of approaching it.”
At the University of Missouri in Columbia, some 165 miles to the north, a spokesman expressed confidence that the school would maintain its in-person classes through Thanksgiving, citing the university’s ample health care resources.
Though many public health experts say more extensive testing is better, Missouri has chosen a more minimal path, testing only those students who report symptoms or who have been exposed to an infected person and have received a referral from a physician.
“There is no one perfect testing strategy,” said Christian Basi, the school spokesman. In a video explaining the university’s testing philosophy, a professor in the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine explained that mass testing “uses a lot of resources,” and that “we’re better to focus on the individuals that really need tests.”
After cumulative cases shot up by 271 on Tuesday, however, the university required students to wear masks at all times on campus, except when they are alone outside.
California State University Chico, like the rest of the California State University system, had thought it wouldn’t have to weigh such fine-tuning. The school announced in May that it would hold more than 90 percent of its fall classes remotely and cut back dramatically on the number of students who would be living in its already limited campus housing.
But the school still allowed some 2,500 of its 17,000 students to take classes on campus, and housed about 750 students in dorms. By August, infections had begun to spike, many among students living off campus.
Since then, infections have continued to rise, driving increases in the surrounding community and county. The university’s president, Gayle Hutchinson, isn’t counting on things returning to normal any time soon.
“We gave it our best shot,” said Ms. Hutchinson in a news conference announcing her decision to move all but about 100 students off campus and end the remaining in-person classes. “Maybe everything will have to remain virtual until we have a vaccine.”
Reporting was contributed by Danielle Ivory, Mitch Smith, Natasha Singer, Kevin Williams, Kirk Semple, Alex Lemonides, Jacob LaGesse and Grace Gorenflo.