As positive COVID-19 cases surge once again in both Ohio and Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati colleges and universities are taking different approaches to safety and learning for the spring semester.
Northern Kentucky University
Northern Kentucky University announced this week that it would delay the start of classes. Originally set to begin Monday, Jan. 10, the university now is delaying classes until Tuesday, Jan. 18, per a campus-wide email from NKU president Ashish Vaidya.
In the email, Vaidya cited Kentucky’s record-breaking number of positive COVID-19 cases as key to the decision to delay the spring semester.
“Current regional case information is eye-opening, with record infections of 120 per 100,000 per day and higher throughout Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati. The regional transmission rate has risen to 1.3, which is also as high as we have seen,” Vaidya said in the Jan. 4 email.
On Jan. 3, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that on Dec. 30, the state had 6,441 COVID-19 cases, the highest ever for a single day (the previous highest number was 5,742 cases on Jan. 6, 2021).
On Dec. 29, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reported that 5,356 residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing Ohio’s previous record of 5,308 hospitalizations from Dec. 15, 2020. He recently deployed National Guard members to relieve exhausted healthcare staff throughout the state.
And as of Jan. 4, the city of Cincinnati had 560 new COVID-19 cases, though that’s likely an undercount, as it frequently takes health departments a few days to update data after weekends and holidays. Of the new cases, 160 were age 20-29, 111 were 30-39, and 71 were 40-49.
NKU opened its campus Tuesday but is delaying student move-in day until Friday, Jan. 14. To slow the coronavirus’ spread on campus, the university also recommended that staff look for ways to work from home and faculty try a mix of in-person and remote learning activities once classes resume.
Indoor masking on campus is required, and Vaidya recommended COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.
“It appears that illnesses from infection with Omicron are, at least for those who are vaccinated and boosted, significantly milder than prior variants. However, Omicron remains dangerous to the unvaccinated and those who haven’t received a third dose of the vaccines,” Vaidya wrote. “We encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are able to do so. The vaccines have proven extraordinarily safe and highly effective in preventing serious COVID-19 illness.”
NKU provides more information about procedures and recommendations on its COVID-19 resource website.
University of Cincinnati
The University has moved to online learning for the beginning of the spring semester. In a Jan. 4 campus email, UC’s provost and executive vice resident for academic affairs Valerio Ferme and chief medical preparedness officer Dustin Calhoun said that recent winter gatherings plus the high local transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus influenced the decision.
Beginning today, Jan. 5, UC classes and academic support services will be fully online in order to curb or delay a spike in campus COVID cases due to holiday gatherings. In-person activities will resume on Jan. 24.
The university also is looking at other safety measures and ways to provide COVID-19 booster shots, the email said.
Ferme and Calhoun said that students may return to living in residence halls but must agree to COVID-19 testing. They also suggested that campus activities “should be either canceled, minimized per best practices about gatherings mentioned above (e.g., max. congregation numbers) or moved to a remote format.”
The university requires students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and strongly encourages booster shots, the email said (four students have filed a lawsuit against UC’s vaccine mandate, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported). More recommendations are available on UC’s COVID-19 website.
Xavier University largely is continuing with its original schedule for the spring semester, planning for a Jan. 10 start. Xavier officials sent an email to students on Dec. 29 outlining plans for a return to campus.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus, officials said, students are required to submit a negative test taken within 72 hours of returning. Students who test positive must adhere to an isolation period. “Xavier anticipates cases of COVID in our community as the start of the spring semester overlaps with a spike from the omicron variant,” the email said.
Masks are required in all public indoor spaces like classrooms and common areas, but not in residences or during exercises or eating in group spaces. This may be temporary, as Xavier’s email says “for the start of the spring semester.”
Like other universities, Xavier also strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots. The university’s student health services opened on campus earlier this week to provide booster shots and other care. More information is available on Xavier’s COVID-19 website.
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