COVID-19 Roundup: More Colleges Halt In-Person Instruction Early

Another half dozen institutions shift to virtual learning as coronavirus cases spike around them.

November 11, 2020

Coronavirus case counts are rising, and so too is the number of colleges and universities altering their end-of-semester instructional plans as a result.

At least a half dozen more institutions announced late Monday or Tuesday that they would abandon in-person instruction earlier than they had hoped. Some cited outbreaks on their own campuses, while others said they were influenced by rising incidences of COVID-19 in their surrounding communities. (See Inside Higher Ed's database and map of changes in college's fall plans here.)

The president of Drake University, Earl F. Martin, said the Iowa private institution continued to have a "manageable situation" on its campus, with five students in on-campus isolation, 41 in off-campus isolation and 158 total students in quarantine.

But Martin said the university would nonetheless shift to "full virtual delivery" of instruction today, instead of after the Thanksgiving break as originally planned. The reason, he said, was "the increasing incidence of the virus in the community around us and the strain this is putting on local health care resources, particularly the heightened hospitalizations in the Des Moines area.

Reversals in Colleges' Fall 2020 Reopening Plans

Scores of colleges and universities have in recent weeks changed the plans they set last spring for reopening their physical campuses this fall. This tracker and searchable database shows how those changes have unfolded over time.

View Inside Higher Ed’s Live Data Tracker »

"Unlike in September when our COVID-19 cases increased due to specific spreader events, the isolation and quarantine cases detailed above are almost entirely due to general community spread," Martin said. "This means that all of us must redouble our efforts to wear our masks and practice social distancing and good hygiene at all times. There can be no exceptions to this if we are going to stay healthy and protect our community."

Adams State University, in Colorado, said it would end in-person instruction for the last 10 days of its fall term.

"As everyone knows we were hopeful of finishing fall semester classes in-person and then shifting to a Blackboard-only finals week beginning November 30," President Cheryl D. Lovell said. "In consultation with academic department chairs, the full academic council, and public health officials, we feel it is in the best interest of our students, faculty and staff to transition to Blackboard-only instruction beginning this Wednesday, November 11."

Pueblo Community College, also in Colorado, announced that it would shift all instruction to a remote format as of Tuesday, citing "the current surge in COVID-19 cases in our service areas."

"Our original was to go remote after the Thanksgiving holiday, but we decided to up that a couple of weeks in light of the increased positive cases we are seeing in our community," President Patty Erjavec told The Pueblo Chieftain. "This is in response to being respectful to what the governor [Jared Polis] and the mayor [Nick Gradisar] are asking of all of us as citizens."

Lenoir-Rhyne University, in North Carolina, cited infections in Catawba County to explain its decision to shift all classes online.

And St. Louis Community College announced on Facebook that "all classes with an on-campus component that can shift to the live virtual lecture format will transition online starting Monday, Nov. 16. Classes that can't shift will continue to meet on campus. Based on the current data, we expect these precautions will remain in place for a few weeks after Thanksgiving break. While this shift … may feel disappointing and disruptive, it is necessary for the health and safety of the STLCC community."

Other institutions acted in response to campus outbreaks.

Cleary University, in Michigan, shifted to virtual instruction after about 40 percent of its on-campus students were in quarantine, the Livingston Daily reported. (No information about the move was evident on the university's website.) Another local news source reported that the outbreak occurred after two students tested positive after attending an off-campus party at the residence of an athlete.

Cleary's interim president, Emily Barnes, told that students who knowingly exceeded limits on the size of gatherings were “irresponsible and selfish … Off-campus behaviors affect on-campus possibilities. Today, almost half of Cleary students in residence halls are in quarantine. Students who did not attend this party fear they will take the virus home to high-risk family members, and they are right to be afraid, and angry.”

Finlandia University, which last weekend suspended athletic activity for two weeks, on Monday said the Michigan institution would end in-person instruction next Monday, a week earlier than planned. President Philip Johnson attributed the decisions to what he said was an increase of active COVID-19 cases on the campus. The university's dashboard shows 16 active student cases and 64 students and 12 employees in quarantine. The dashboard says that Finlandia's isolation suites are full.

Linda Lujan, the president of Lamar Community College, in Colorado, said her institution would shift to virtual learning for two weeks in response to cases on the campus.

"The goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our region and reduce the number of people infected," she said.

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Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

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