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University of Notre Dame halts in-person teaching for two weeks as virus count climbs



The University of Notre Dame will halt in-person teaching for at least two weeks, starting Wednesday, in an effort to contain a rapid increase in coronavirus cases at the outset of the fall semester.

The shift echoes many occurring in recent days and weeks as the pandemic has laid siege to higher education and thrown schedules for students into chaos.

Michigan State University also announced Tuesday that it will teach most courses remotely starting on Sept. 2, scrapping plans for some in-person and hybrid instruction. The public university in East Lansing urged undergraduates to stay home. The public University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which opened for in-person teaching last week, is also moving online after a surge in cases.

Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, announced his school’s pivot in remarks to students Tuesday, eight days after the term began on the campus of the Catholic university in South Bend, Ind.

Jenkins said the number of confirmed cases this month has risen to 147, up from a previously published count of nearly 60. Nearly all those infected are students, though none have been hospitalized. Much of the spread, officials said, has been among seniors living off campus.

“This spike in cases is very serious, and we must take serious steps to address it,” Jenkins said in a brief address that was shown through a live feed on the university website. He said the 12,000-student school was stopping short of sending students home “at least for the time being,” in hopes of getting the case count under control.

Notre Dame ordered extensive testing of students for the novel coronavirus before the school year started. Out of 11,836 who were tested, 33 were confirmed as positive cases. Those students were not allowed onto campus until cleared by medical professionals.

But that was not enough to extinguish the threat. “Our contact-tracing analysis indicates that most infections are coming from off-campus gatherings,” Jenkins said. “Students infected at those gathering passed it on to others, who in turn have passed the virus on to others, resulting in the positive cases we have seen.”

Notre Dame officials said students living off campus should, for now, not come onto the campus. Those living on campus were advised to stay put except in cases of emergencies. Gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 students, half the previous cap.

The announcement comes a day after UNC-Chapel Hill switched abruptly to remote instruction after convening for face-to-face teaching.

Universities and colleges across the country are wrestling with whether and how to bring students back to campus as the opening weeks of the fall term loom on campuses amid a pandemic that has claimed more than 160,000 lives in the United States.

Notre Dame and UNC-Chapel Hill had two of the most aggressive plans for early opening with live instruction.



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