A surge in coronavirus cases in the Los Angeles region has prompted the University of Southern California to drop plans to have undergraduate students back in the classroom and instead offer most classes online.
USC mentioned “the alarming spike” in a letter to students Wednesday. The school said it needed to “dramatically reduce our on-campus density and all indoor activities for the fall semester.”
“Given the continuing safety restrictions and limited densities permissible on campus, our undergraduate students primarily or exclusively will be taking their courses online in the fall term, and our on-campus housing and activities will be limited,” the letter said.
“While not what we hoped, we are now recommending all undergraduates take their courses online,” the letter added, “and reconsider living on or close to campus this semester.”
A revised class schedule expected July 8 will show that a majority of undergraduate classes will only be offered online. Some will use a hybrid format, the letter said, combining both in-person and online class sessions. But only 10% to 20% of classes will be in-person, the letter said — mostly made up of courses that involve hands-on work.
Plans for graduate students will be detailed by the individual school and program, the letter said.
USC previously announced housing would be limited to one student per bedroom, and that the city wanted the school to keep some rooms vacant for potential quarantines. On Wednesday, USC said students should reconsider their housing and that access to on-campus facilities will be limited.
Decision comes as California sees record new cases
Last month, USC President Carol Folt said the university — which transitioned to online classes in the spring due to the pandemic — planned to resume in-person classes beginning in August. Online classes and hybrid classes were also going to be offered.
Folt warned at that time the school’s plans were “contingent on several factors, including the continued spread of COVID-19, and the health orders from state and local authorities.”
In that announcement, USC said classrooms were being reconfigured to follow social distancing guidelines, and students were to wear masks. The university planned to end the semester by Thanksgiving to minimize the spread of the coronavirus ahead of flu season.
But in recent weeks, cases of Covid-19 have risen dramatically — not just in Southern California, but in many states across the country.
On Wednesday, California was the most populous of five states that reported record-high totals of new cases, with 9,740. That number included 5,898 cases reported to the state in the prior 24 hours and another 3,842 cases from a five-day period that were previously unreported.
Rising case figures prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to tell restaurant dining rooms, bars and other indoor facilities like museums and movie theaters to stay shut or close in 19 counties — a move USC said factored into its decision to have mostly online classes.
Of course, USC is not the only school trying to figure out how it can safely resume operations while keeping students and faculty safe from the coronavirus.
This week, Yale University it would reopen without sophomores living on campus in the fall, and then without freshman in the spring in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. And University of California, San Diego recently said it planned to regularly test students and faculty for Covid-19.
Ithaca College in New York has said it plans to start its fall semester in-person on October 5, giving the school more time to prepare and plan.
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