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WVU sees holiday as benchmark

COVID cases show downward trend

With in-person classes resuming Monday, the goal now for West Virginia University officials is to make it until Thanksgiving with no spike in COVID-19 cases on its Morgantown campus.

University officials said they decided to bring students back after moving classes online Sept. 7, after virus numbers showed a significant decline.

“We are still living in the midst of a pandemic,” said Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for Strategic Initiatives during a Thursday campus-wide video conference. “If we follow protocols, then we can get through the next several weeks.”

In making the decision to let students resume in-person classes and their normal schedules, Alsop said the number of COVID-19 cases are declining both on the Morgantown campus and in Monongalia County.

Arnold Apartments, the main quarantine building for exposes and positive students, has 160 beds. Alsop said the building is 45% occupied. There are also 70 beds for exposed, or positive COVID-19 students at Gaskins Hall.

Alsop said 82% of the students in quarantine did not test positive for the virus, while 18% did. He said the spike of COVID-19 cases in Morgantown was because of students, not the community.

“We are not aware of any positive results from classroom exposure,” he said.

When classes started in Morgantown on Aug. 26, the majority of upper classmen were given online classes, which meant 70% were online and 30% were in-person. University officials said Thursday there are no plans to change that ratio and add more in-person classes.

Alsop said the university still has plenty of protective gear for students.

“We feel good we will be able to navigate the rest of the semester,” he said.

University officials said they will continue to test people who show symptoms of COVID-19, and they plans plan to offer free community testing every Wednesday at the Student Recreation Center for WVU students, employees, as well as residents of Monongalia County.

“At the end of the day, you have to realize COVID is not gone away,” said Dr. Jeffrey Coben, WVU’s associate vice president of health affairs and dean of the School of Public Health. “Other universities have taken a pause and come back.”

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