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Georgetown, New York and Princeton Universities on Wednesday all announced changes in their plans for the close of the semester due to surges of COVID-19 infections on their campuses. The decisions followed Cornell University, which this week made all final exams online because of 496 active COVID cases among students.
Increase in Cases at Georgetown
A statement from Georgetown said, “We are experiencing a notable and concerning increase in COVID-19 cases on our campuses this week, and we are taking several immediate steps to help protect the Georgetown University community. Yesterday marked the largest one-day total for COVID-19 cases within our community, with 34 Georgetown community members testing positive, and the positivity rate on our campuses this week to date, 2.36 percent, is the highest we have seen.”
The university is not changing plans for final exams. But it is closing the campus fitness center and requiring all eating to be done in dormitories.
“Food and beverage consumption in communal spaces, including libraries and student center study areas, is not allowed at this time,” the statement said.
“All indoor university-sponsored events on campus, including holiday parties, need to be moved outdoors or canceled, and all other events and social gatherings should be held virtually, ” the letter said.
George Washington Changes Format of Exams
George Washington University announced that all final exams scheduled for Friday and after would be online only.
In addition, it said that faculty members have the right to switch exams today to online only.
A letter from the university's president, Thomas J. LeBlanc, and other officials also said that “all in-person social gatherings and events are cancelled.”
“We understand that this news comes at an already stressful time during finals and other scheduled end-of-semester activities. At this time, we have not made any changes regarding spring semester. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 transmission among our community members and in the region and will update you with more information soon,” the letter said.
Most Exams at NYU Will Be Online
New York University is going with mostly virtual final exams because of its COVID-19 outbreak.
“The continuous review of the data from our COVID-19 testing program has indicated a considerable acceleration in the rate of new cases in our community. It’s not a cause for alarm, but it is a cause for concern, caution, and appropriate actions,” said a letter from Katherine Fleming, the provost, Martin Dorph, the executive vice president, and Carlo Ciotoli, leader of the COVID-19 Prevention and Response Team.
“We strongly encourage that final examinations and/or assessments be changed to remote/online format,” the letter said. “Only those assessments that are fundamentally unsuited to being conducted remotely (i.e. those that have a crucial in-person component) should proceed in person; in these cases, faculty should let their department chair and dean’s office know that they plan to conduct their exams in person.
“All discretionary, non-essential, non-academic gatherings and events are to be canceled immediately. This includes events, club meetings, get-togethers for the holidays, celebrations, and athletic events, among other gatherings, both on-campus and off-campus, for students, faculty, and other employees.”
The letter also encouraged students to eat outside but said the dining halls would remain open for students unable to do so.
“We strongly encourage students to make use of ‘grab and go’ eating, rather than sitting with others in a dining facility. If you do eat inside, you should keep your mask on until the moment you start eating, you should try to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet (two meters), and you should limit your meals to 15 minutes and then re-mask,” said the letter.
Exams Are All Virtual at Princeton
Princeton announced that all final exams would be virtual, effective today.
“We write to let you know that we’ve decided to shift all final exams to a remote format so that students will be able to leave campus at their earliest convenience. We apologize for the late hour—we want you to have this information as soon as possible,” said a letter from Jill Dolan, a dean, and W. Rochelle Calhoun, a vice president.
“The State of New Jersey requires anyone testing positive for COVID to isolate for 10 days, whether or not they’re symptomatic,” the letter said. ”Given that we’ve seen an uptick in cases among undergraduates during the last 24 hours—including suspected cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant—we hope to avoid letting the final exam schedule interfere with students’ travel home for winter break. We certainly don’t want you remaining on campus in required isolation through the holidays.”
The university also announced that “due to a recent increase in cases among undergraduates on campus, the entire Princeton community must cancel or postpone all indoor gatherings with food and those where face coverings can’t be worn, effective Thursday December 16 through Friday January 7, 2022. The university will revisit this guidance before January 7 and update our public health policies accordingly.”