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WVU hopes moving classes online until Sept. 28 brings numbers down

More than 400 West Virginia University students are in isolation because of COVID-19 and more student suspensions are coming because of continued violation of virus safety protocols, a top West Virginia University administrator said Tuesday. 

“Over the past 10 days the number of cases increased and we were getting pretty concerned,” said Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for Strategic Initiatives.

As of Monday, 319 students have been quarantined in residence halls, 36 in University Apartments, 284 off campus, 75 went home, and 201 in Greek housing for a total of 915, according to the university.

Besides disciplining students – 29 more students have been placed on immediate interim suspension – amid ongoing COVID-19 investigations, the university has opted to go online until Sept. 25, a move prompted by large parties this past weekend attended by students who should have been in quarantine.  

The planned Sept. 28 return to in-person classes was chosen because it takes 14 days for the virus to run its course, and 10 days in isolation before a person is determined not to have COVID-19, Alsop said.

“We needed to reduce the activity on campus,” said Alsop, adding that temporary online classes were tried successfully at the University Of Notre Dame.

“Hopefully we can reduce the spread long enough,” he said. “We need to break the chain.”

A week into the fall semester, Notre Dame moved to online instruction for two weeks in an attempt to control an outbreak of the virus after 147 tested positive, The New York Times reported. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill moved its classes online a week into the semester.

In a Sept. 7 letter to the campus community, WVU President Gordon Gee said the move to online instruction is in response to parties held during the Labor Day weekend where groups should have been in quarantine.

“Our data shows that the majority of those students either in quarantine or in isolation are undergraduates with at least one on-campus course,” Gee wrote. “There is not sufficient evidence to disrupt graduate and professional education. If the trend reverses, we will not hesitate to move those programs online, as well.”

“This unfortunate but necessary step is unfair to each of you. And you have every right to be disappointed and frustrated,” Gee wrote. “But we are taking this step to protect each of you. As I have said from the beginning, your health and safety are always our highest priority.”