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WVU announces undergraduates will go online-only because of concerns over covid spread

West Virginia University has announced in–person classes will be canceled in Morgantown on Tuesday and then will resume online only through Sept. 25.

Corey Farris

“We’ve been watching the cases of positive students increase over the past week or so significantly. Obviously we’re part of the community and we’re concerned about our students. We looked at what we need to do to slow down that spread,” WVU Dean of Students Corey Farris said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“This pause for those in-person undergraduate classes we hope will give us that break.”

The university intends to return to on-campus course delivery on Monday, Sept. 28 if conditions allow. WVU says it will reevaluate the public health situation on Sept. 23 and advise whether on-campus learning will resume.

Until further notice, the university said, on-campus students should avoid leaving the Morgantown campus area except under emergency circumstances. Off-campus students should not visit campus and are asked to stay in their Morgantown area residences except when necessary, university officials said.

Freshmen had started the year in classrooms, but most other undergraduates were already online-only.

Now all undergraduate courses in Morgantown, with the exception of those Health Sciences courses with students already engaged in clinical rotation, will move online through Friday, Sept. 25. Graduate and professional courses will continue to be offered in person

Staff and faculty are to report to work as usual. The action is being undertaken only on the Morgantown campus. All activities on other WVU campuses and in counties other than Monongalia County will continue as planned.

This follows concerns about students at bars and off-campus parties. WVU announced suspensions of 29 students Sunday evening after reports of parties, particularly at fraternities not officially recognized by the university.

“We find those are superspreader events because they’re not small gatherings,” Farris said on “Talkline.”

Those suspensions followed similar announcements Sept. 2 and 3, Aug. 20 and 26.

“Most of our students, I think, are doing the right thing,” said Farris, who described the use of masks and social distancing But he said there’s a subset of students not doing that. “Quite frankly, I think it’s selfish of students who just aren’t taking appropriate precautions.”

The university says it continues to work aggressively to identify others attending large off-campus gatherings and will respond swiftly to bring charges against those found violating the Student Code of Conduct. WVU is also working with local officials to see what other measures can be implemented for those not following the rules.

WVU’s campus testing results for Morgantown showed 2 positives among 77 student tests for last Thursday, which was 2.6 percent.

Results in the days prior to that were higher.

There were 48 positives among 412 student tests reported on Sept. 2 for 11.65 percent; there were 35 positives among 260 student tests on Sept. 1 for 13.46 percent; no results were reported Aug. 31; and there were 27 positive tests among 139 student tests on Aug. 30, for 19.42 percent.

WVU notes, “The University does expect the daily percentage of positive COVID-19 tests will increase during symptomatic and sample testing, as these tests are for individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms and groups who are more likely to be at risk of contracting COVID-19.”

WVU reports that 713 students in Morgantown were in quarantine as of last Thursday, 596 as of Wednesday, 475 as of Tuesday and 472 as of last Monday.

People in quarantine are asked to avoid contact with others for 14 days because they’ve been considered a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Many more students were in isolation, which means avoiding others for at least 10 days after being tested. People are likely in isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test result.

So that has meant 263 WVU students were in isolation as of last Thursday, 210 as of last Wednesday, 170 as of last Tuesday and 140 as of last Monday.

Dr. Clay Marsh

Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus response coordinator and executive dean for WVU Health, said on social media today that the suspension of most in-person learning isn’t the only step that the university needs to take.

“This is an effort on behalf of the university to reduce the spread of covid in the college student community. We know that moving to more online will reduce interactions and help to an extent. However, as you articulated, additional mitigation measures will be needed,” Marsh said on social media. 

Marsh continued by making reference to the guidance of Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

“As Tony Fauci suggested, better to keep people where they are, but focus on suspending students not following the rules and reducing large indoor gathering events. We know that to successfully keep universities open, we will need to control covid spread,” Marsh said on Twitter.

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