Many colleges and universities are changing their reopening plans amid a rapid rise in COVID infections around the country.
With the Omicron variant — the most contagious strain of coronavirus yet — accounting for 73 percent of new cases, institutions are moving the last days of the semester online, including final exams.
Health experts anticipate a viral blizzard in January, with infections topping 400,000 people a day in roughly six weeks, far surpassing last winter’s numbers.
“January is going to be a really, really hard month. And people should just brace themselves for a month where lots of people are going to get infected,” dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, said.
Schools Shutting Down
Cornell, Princeton, Middlebury College, and New York University are among the schools moving online after conducting in-person classes for a large part of the fall semester.
Cornell was among the first universities to declare a “red alert” after several students tested positive for the Omicron variant. The Ivy League school suspended all university-sponsored activities, including a recognition ceremony for fall graduates.
Yale, DePaul, Syracuse, and Howard are delaying the start of the spring semester to slow down the spread of infections following the holiday break.
“Our highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. These steps will help us maintain as safe an environment as possible in order to provide the best educational experience to our students,” Howard stated.
While universities explain the shift as a measure to protect the health and safety of students during the holiday break, students fear the new restrictions may parallel spring 2020 when schools were forced to shut down campuses and move classes online for a year.
“I don’t want it to be a repeat of last year,” Columbia University student Alicia Yang said. “But, of course, the health and safety of the majority of people is important.”