COVID-19 Roundup: UW-La Crosse Approaches Isolation Capacity

Colleges temporarily suspend in-person classes, San Francisco State lays off staff, colleges begin to announce spring plans, some students party on and a college suspends its wrestling program.

September 14, 2020
 

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse suspended all in-person undergraduate instruction for two weeks and ordered students in all residence halls to shelter in place on Sunday.

The university pointed to "the high number of positive test results among resident students in a variety of residence halls" and said designated isolation spaces "are "approaching the point of being filled."

The university's COVID dashboard showed that 98 of 140 quarantine and isolation spaces -- 70 percent -- were in use as of Sunday afternoon. Of 74 test results announced on Sunday, 51 were positive, a positivity rate of 68.92 percent.

In an email, UW La Crosse's chancellor, Joe Gow, suggested students should weigh the risks of staying in residence halls even while he wrote that "national health experts suggest that students should not travel home during this two-week period."

"There are growing numbers of positive cases on and off-campus, including cases that have been confirmed through testing," Gow wrote. "The University may not have enough isolation space available and residents remaining in the halls must weigh their own risks. Residence Life will continue to honor requests for housing contract cancellations."


Northern Illinois University also has moved all undergraduate classes online and asked students to limit in-person activities and interactions until Monday, Sept. 28.

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.

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“More than 120 students are currently positive for COVID-19, and more are currently quarantining due to exposure and/or pending test results,” the university said in an announcement Friday. “Through contact tracing, we have determined that the vast majority of student cases involve those who live off-campus or who attended off-campus gatherings where masks were not worn and physical distancing was not respected. We are also aware that some students are not fully cooperating with health officials and following guidelines on reporting symptoms and potential exposure.”

“These careless and unacceptable activities have led to a substantial increase in the overall positivity rate for DeKalb County and put our entire community at risk,” the university said. “ We continue to work closely with our partners at the DeKalb County Health Department, and together determined that we need to take immediate and significant action to reduce opportunities for further spread.”


San Francisco State University plans to lay off 131 people, about 8 percent of its total staff, with most of the layoffs affecting administrative, information technology and university operations positions, SF Weekly reported. Faculty are not affected.

The university received a $22 million cut in its state funding this year -- part of a $300 million cut to the whole California State University system -- and is expecting a drop in enrollment of about 1,900 students, which is less than what was initially projected.

“Despite cost-cutting measures, slightly better-than-projected fall enrollments, and a decision to use a more optimistic figure for expected revenue, it was still necessary this week to take the painful step of laying off staff members,” San Francisco State president Lynn Mahoney said in a statement quoted by SF Weekly. She added, however, that the university hopes to reduce the number of layoffs “pending meet and confer with unions.”

Union leaders have expressed concerns about a lack of transparency regarding the university's financial situation.


Long Beach City College, a community college, announced that instruction this spring will mostly be conducted online, with the exception of some laboratory classes. The college’s spring semester is scheduled to start Feb. 8.


Ohio State University announced it will cancel spring break to reduce travel-related exposure to COVID-19, Cleveland.com reported. The university also said the first week of classes in January will be held remotely to allow students to quarantine after winter break.

“There will be no spring break. Instead, there will be two instructional breaks -- on Tuesday, Feb. 9, and Wednesday, Mar. 31 -- where there will be no classes. This approach will keep our community together throughout the semester and reduce travel-related exposures,” the university said in an email from Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce McPheron.


New coronavirus cases in Arizona’s Pima County started increasing in late August, roughly two weeks after students returned to the University of Arizona campus, reversing a mostly downward trend in case numbers that started in mid-July, Tucson.com reported. The university has confirmed 1,148 positive cases since July 31, including 600 this month.

Francisco Garcia, the county’s chief medical officer, said the county is considering additional restrictions targeted at UA, with options including revoking pool permits at some buildings and mandating quarantines. “Given with what we have now, we are looking at a lot of really aggressive actions that are probably going to make some people unhappy with us, but that we think are required to maintain the health and safety of this community and in this county,” Garcia told Tuscon.com.


Six students at Miami University in Ohio were cited by police for holding a house party in violation of a city ordinance restricting mass gatherings despite at least one of the students having tested positive for COVID-19, CNN reported, citing police records.

According to CNN, the officer scanned the student’s ID and saw a flag the student had tested positive for COVID-19. The student told the officer he had been tested a week before. The officer asked him if he was supposed to be quarantining; the student said that was why he was at home.

"Do you have other people here and you're positive for COVID? You see the problem?" the officer reportedly asked.

KXAN, a local television station in Austin, Tex., also reported on concerns about parties in the area of University of Texas at Austin in advance of the first home football game held on Saturday.


The State University of New York at Oswego said it would step up restrictions on Greek life, suspend all athletics activity (including practices and workouts) for the remainder of the semester, indefinitely suspend in-person dining and residence hall visitation, enhance enforcement of restrictions on gathering sizes, and require testing of students living off campus who come to the campus for classes.

"We are proud of the fact that we have been a leader in testing, having tested over 6,300 students for COVID-19, yet the rise in cases the past two weeks and our total cumulative cases (130) is unacceptable," President Deborah F. Stanley said in a statement. "Still, our percent of positives is at 1.86 (of our estimated 6,985 total on-campus population of students, faculty, and staff). And, with the large amount of baseline and surveillance testing we have done (more than most other institutions around us), we can be confident in the accuracy of that calculation.  We tested most of our students when they arrived.  There were only three positive cases so we know that the spread we see is almost entirely due to bad behavior, flaunting restrictions and violating the pledges made to keep each other safe."

Stanley said that while the university had already halted Greek life activities at the beginning of the semester, "now any parties or large group activities organized and hosted by Greek members, even if not technically Greek sponsored will draw severe individual and organizational penalties."

More broadly, Stanley said SUNY Oswego is "enhancing enforcement of gathering size restrictions on and off-campus, with violators (hosts and attendees) facing student conduct sanctions including automatic suspension, loss of athletic eligibility, or loss of Greek Life status." The university said individuals who violate quarantine and isolation orders will be immediately suspended and referred to health department authorities for  possible penalties.


The State University of New York at Brockport suspended its wrestling program after learning members were allegedly not respecting social distancing and masking policies, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.

“We are relieved that no one has become ill as a result of these alleged infractions, but risky behavior cannot go unchallenged,” President Heidi Macpherson said in a statement.

Two wrestling classes in the physical education department have also been suspended. The college is investigating further.

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