A break for Covid

Outdoor classes such as this one will soon be a thing of the past. The fall semester is coming to an end.

A break for Covid

Students will soon be sent home for Thanksgiving and an unusually long winter break as the university strives to keep campus safe.

Fall semester won’t end for a couple more weeks but students are already preparing for a long winter’s break, which is part of the university’s strategy to maintain a healthy campus.


Most students will go home Nov. 20 for Thanksgiving break and stay there. Rather than having students return for classes that continue until Dec. 7, and maybe bring back the coronavirus, the university has told them to plug into classes and final exams from home.


As plans now stand, most students won’t return to campus until Feb. 1, the start of spring semester.


Meanwhile, the university is intensifying  efforts to control the spread of the virus on campus. On Friday night, Nov. 13, CWRU instituted a “shelter in place protocol,” directing students to stay in their dorms, avoid gatherings and not venture out to bars or restaurants.


Students were advised of the new protocols in a Nov. 12 email from Interim President Scott Cowen and Provost Ben Vinson III. 


“As we are all witnessing, the COVID-19 surge is getting worse every day,” the top administrators wrote. “The nation is setting new case and hospitalization records daily, while Ohio hits new highs nearly as often. In our own county, hospitals are reporting 10 percent positive test rates—double the figure just two weeks earlier.”


Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, all students living in university housing are expected to stay in their rooms “as much as possible,” the administrators said. Students may leave to attend classes and jobs and to get meals, but they should eat in their rooms, the directive states. And they should not leave Cuyahoga County if they plan to come back before Nov. 21.


“Given how rapidly case counts are increasing nationwide, we may need to take additional steps to protect your health,” the administrators added.


Overall, the university has done well battling the pandemic. Random testing, contact tracing, masking and social distancing  have kept incidences of the virus low on campus while students attend a mix of in-person and remote classes and labs. For most of the semester, fewer than 1% of students were testing positive for the virus.


But the university saw a spike in positive test results after Halloween and the presidential election. Meanwhile, it is surrounded by the pandemic. Covid 19 cases have reached record levels in Ohio and Cuyahoga County is currently on the red alert red level, the second highest.


Soon, students will feel the effects of a new testing capability. CWRU has partnered with New York-based Vault Health to offer a quicker saliva test being used by many universities.


The new tests will allow the university to begin “exit testing” of faculty and students Nov. 16, to help make sure no one is traveling home with the virus. Students “with positive results” may have to adjust their holiday plans, the university has said.


Winter session returns

There’s one more notable change to the academic schedule, one that may resonate with Case alumni. The university is offering a special January session of three-week courses, which the Case School of Engineering intends to take part in.


The thinking is that students, facing a six-week break, may be open to staying connected to school while advancing their degree program, said Don Feke ’76, MS ’77, PhD, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.


Feke said some science and engineering courses will be offered in the “intensive format” that Case Institute of Technology used for its January Intersession classes in the 1970s.


“Some students want to have something to do and keep learning, so why not?” he said. “It will allow students to spread out their schedules” and continue to engage with the university over the long winter’s break.


For the latest updates on the university’s response to the pandemic and for test results, click HERE.  

“Some students want to have something to do and keep learning, so why not? It will allow students to spread out their schedules.”

— Don Feke


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