Universities plan for return to virus-altered campuses
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Requiring students and faculty to wear masks, ending the on-campus semester before Thanksgiving, providing more hand sanitation stations and placing fewer students in dormitories are among the ideas university officials discussed Thursday in anticipation of students returning to campus this fall.
The spring semester was disrupted by the spread of the new coronavirus, which has been a factor in 2,635 deaths in the state as of Thursday, according to the latest state figures.
Leaders of the University of Louisiana System held an online meeting Thursday to discuss a framework for the fall return. System president Jim Henderson said the framework is being updated frequently as guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control evolves. And while there will be a systemwide framework, each of the system’s nine universities will be able to tailor plans to their specific, regional needs, Henderson said.
University of New Orleans president John Nicklow said his university will stress high flexibility in how classes are conducted and social distancing imperatives followed.
“Even if we’re in a face-to-face mode, if I have a 100-person class, I may have 25 students in front of me, 25 students in a classroom next door and 50 students taking the course remotely on a particular day,” Nicklow said. “And so as a student I might sit in that classroom on Monday, and Wednesday I might take it in my residence hall and on Friday I might sit on the lake.”
He also discussed the possibility of doing away with a two-day fall break and ending the semester by Thanksgiving, an idea multiple universities are considering to avoid students traveling for the holidays, being exposed to the virus and bringing it to campus before semester’s end.
In a news release after its May meeting, the state Board of Regents, which governs all higher education in Louisiana, said ideas being considered include keeping large classes online, holding smaller classes in larger lecture halls, requiring that masks be worn in all classrooms and arranging for two-person dorm rooms with recovery and isolation sites available for students.
The discussions were held as Gov. John Bel Edwards prepares for an expected announcement next week on whether the state will further ease restrictions on public gatherings and businesses.
Thursday’s death toll of 2,635 was an increase of 18 over the previous day. The state reported 38,802 confirmed cases, a one-day increase of more than 300, as testing continues.
Hospitalizations continue to fall, dropping to 761 on Thursday. Declining hospitalizations are a factor in deciding whether to further ease restrictions that have harmed the state economy.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 23,853 people filed new unemployment claims in Louisiana last week.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.