COVID-19 Roundup: 3 Colleges to Finish Fall Term Virtually

Private colleges in Florida, New York and Minnesota end in-person instruction for the semester. A Big Ten football game is canceled, as are spring sports seasons at two colleges.

October 29, 2020
 

Private colleges in Florida, New York and Minnesota announced this week that they would complete the rest of the fall term with all-virtual instruction.

Bethune-Cookman University, in Daytona Beach, Fla., said in a letter to students and employees Monday that Wednesday would be the last day of in-person instruction and that it would complete the last three weeks of the fall term virtually. Officials cited a spike in COVID-19 and a desire to "begin reducing the on-campus density for the remainder of the fall semester." Bethune-Cookman's president, E. LaBrent Chrite, encouraged the historically Black institution's students to "expedite their planned departure from campus beginning this week," if they are able to, but said they could remain on campus through Nov. 20. Those who remain will operate under a shelter-in-place order and a curfew.

Bethune-Cookman also became the first institution in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I to cancel competition for the rest of the 2020-21 academic year.

"The recent spike in COVID-19 positivity rates in the state, across Volusia County and on our campus, provides clear and unambiguous evidence, in our view, that now is simply not the time to resume athletic competition," Chrite wrote. "While the decision to opt out of spring competition is the only responsible one for us at this time, it was not made lightly. We know that this decision greatly impacts our student athletes, our coaching staff, our Marching Wildcats and others."

Keuka College, in New York's Finger Lakes region, began the fall semester with in-person instruction but shifted to virtual learning three weeks ago when COVID cases emerged after a "non-sanctioned off-campus gathering," the college said in a notice Monday.

Although officials said that the number of cases had fallen from a high of 70 on Oct. 15 to about a dozen now, they "decided continuing the remote-learning model is the safest course of action," the announcement said.

Keuka said that students who return home will be eligible for a room and board credit for the rest of the term, and that students who can't leave can remain.

On Tuesday, Martin Luther College, in Minnesota, announced that it would end in-person instruction this week. President Rich Gurgel said that a rising number of positive test results "and the rapidly growing number of close contacts that puts more students into quarantine have brought the day when we cannot continue in face to face instruction and still maintain our safety protocols."

On Wednesday, El Paso Community College became the latest institution to suspend in-person instruction for two weeks, hoping to slow the spread of the coronavirus. President William Serrata said the college had taken the action even though it had been exempted from a stay-at-home order issued this week by a county judge.


The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on some college sports programs, whether they are high profile or not.

Wednesday morning, the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced that a rash of positive COVID cases among its ninth-ranked football team would force it to cancel its game this weekend with the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. The matchup of Big Ten Conference squads is one of the highest-profile college games to be called off because of the coronavirus, and one of a few to be canceled outright rather than postponed, according to a list maintained by CBS Sports.

Cuyahoga Community College, in Cleveland, announced that it would cancel its spring sports season. The college had canceled its fall and winter seasons in June, but officials said Wednesday that the renewed spread of the coronavirus in Ohio and elsewhere required this decision. "The risk of spreading COVID-19 during team activities is simply too great at this time. It would be challenging -- if not impossible -- to implement the precautions and protocols needed to ensure a safe environment during competition, practices and other aspects of athletics," a spokesman, John Horton, said.

Speaking of athletics, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examines a COVID-19 outbreak that affected more than a third of the 45 members of an unidentified Chicago-area university's men's and women's soccer teams this fall.

The report found that the university brought athletes back to its campus in June and required two negative tests before they could participate in team activities. In August one member of the men's team reported COVID-like symptoms to a coach and said he had attended a birthday party and an unsanctioned soccer match involving the men's and women's teams in the preceding two weeks.

The CDC interviewed all 45 athletes and concluded that there had been 18 social gatherings (in addition to the coed soccer game) during the two-week period. Several of the gatherings were seen as the likely spreading incidents, at which relatively little mask wearing was reported.

"This outbreak highlights challenges to implementation of prevention strategies associated with persuading students at colleges and universities to adopt and adhere to recommended mitigation measures outside campus," the CDC report said. "University protocols mandated mask use during training sessions, and coaching staff members reported universal compliance. However, multiple students reported inconsistent mask use and social distancing at social gatherings, which quickly negated the benefits of pretraining testing, on-campus mask use, and social distancing prevention measures."

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