The growing delta variant of the coronavirus is prompting some universities to make early changes to their health and safety plans as students arrive on campuses for the fall.
Some institutions are switching classes online for a few weeks and at least one university delayed the start of its semester. Many universities are also reinstating the mandatory use of masks where allowed by law, even among vaccinated students and employees.
However, not all universities are adjusting fall plans, which has sparked backlash, especially among faculty members.
Delta stress shattered hopes for a typical start to the academic year. Coronavirus numbers are skyrocketing again in the US, and health officials warn the country could soon count 200,000 new cases a day.
The effects of the variant are already evident on some campuses. Amid a surge in cases, Wiley College, a historically black institution in Texas, instituted a campus-wide quarantine on Aug. 11 that officials expect to last at least two weeks. according to a local media report. Everyone on campus will remain in isolation until they test negative for the virus.
Some universities have established new precautionary measures.
California State University, Stanislaus, delayed the reopening of its campus. While classes are scheduled to begin as scheduled on August 23, the institution will not begin in-person instruction until October 1. its president announced last week. The university is allowing students to move into campus housing, but only if they show proof of vaccination or documentation exempting them from receiving the vaccine and evidence of a negative coronavirus test.
South Carolina State University, a public HBCU, said he would postpone fall semester for several days in an attempt to persuade students to get vaccinated at campus clinics and teach them about the coronavirus. The university also imposed masking requirements after the state Supreme Court ruled that public universities can issue general mandates covering those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.
“As the university intensifies its response to this pandemic, we will do our best to encourage students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated if they have not already done so,” Alexander Conyers, acting president of the university, said in a statement. .
But not all institutions are modifying fall plans, much to the chagrin of some faculty and staff. A request from the instructors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill urges administrators to switch classes online for four to six weeks, accusing the flagship institution of not having a “way out” to remote learning. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 150 students and employees they have already tested positive for the virus this month.
The UNC system does not require vaccinations for those who are in its universities, but it requires students They do not offer proof that they have been vaccinated to get tested for the virus on a weekly basis.
UNC-Chapel Hill was one of the first colleges to return to virtual learning last year after cases spiked. and was criticized for letting politics influence their reopening plans.
In an interview with research outlet NC Policy Watch, Jim Thomas, a former Chapel Hill epidemiologist, said the institution’s mistakes mirror those of the past year. Thomas told the publication that, like last year, the managers’ stance is “one of determination” and that the narrative was that they had considered all contingencies.
“The same is true this year. So with determination comes a lack of transparency,” Thomas told the publication.