With the surge in COVID-19 cases across the nation, some universities made the decision to hold classes virtually for the first few weeks of the semester.
Out of 14 schools in the Big Ten, 10 are returning to in-person classes as scheduled, including Ohio State. Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan State and Rutgers are the four institutions opting for a remote start.
The University of Michigan resumed in-person classes Wednesday . The decision was based on high levels of compliance with its vaccine and mask policies during the fall semester in 2021, according to an announcement Monday.
“With the vast majority of students back in Ann Arbor, we do not believe that a period of remote instruction would appreciably decrease the predicted spread of COVID-19 in the weeks ahead,” University President Mark Schlissel and Provost Susan M. Collins said in the announcement.
Since Jan. 2, Michigan’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 518 cases. This is nearly triple the 181 cases reported Dec. 12-18, 2021, during the university’s finals week.
Ohio State will resume in-person classes Monday. University President Kristina M. Johnson announced the university’s safety plan in a universitywide email Tuesday, which included decreased capacity in dining halls, an on-campus booster clinic and new testing requirements.
Students living in university housing must complete a rapid antigen test at the French Field House prior to returning to their dorm. Students living in their sorority or fraternity’s off-campus chapter house will have tests sent to the residence during the first week of classes.
Additionally, all students living in university housing, members of social sororities and fraternities, those exempt from the vaccine mandate and anyone who did not take action on the mandate will have to complete weekly PCR tests, with the first to be completed before Friday.
The university continues to monitor COVID-19 trends to shape guidelines and encourages that all events, gatherings or meetings be held virtually when possible, Johnson said in the email.
“We have achieved a 92.5% vaccination rate and have stayed together throughout the fall by taking care of our community,” Johnson said. “We will continue to support each other as Buckeyes and look forward to a great spring semester.”
The four schools starting remotely all have testing systems in place to provide results before the start of in-person instruction. Illinois will hold its first week of classes online and students must receive a negative test by Jan. 21 ahead of the Jan. 24 in-person start, Illinois Chancellor Robert J. Jones said in a Dec. 20, 2021, email sent to undergraduate students.
“Increasing positive COVID-19 cases, holiday travel and the emergence of the Omicron variant present real risks, and we want to maximize the safety when faculty, staff and students return to campus in a few weeks,” Jones said.
Michigan State announced Dec. 31, 2021, that classes will start remotely Monday and remain virtual for at least three weeks. University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. acknowledged that the decision may not be favorable for students, but is the safest option.
“I realize that students prefer to be in person, and so do I. But it is important that we do so in a safe manner,” Stanley Jr. said in the announcement. “Starting the semester remotely and de-densifying campus in the coming weeks can be a solution to slowing the spread of the virus.”
Northwestern is currently observing a quarantine period for all students prior to the first day of in-person classes Jan. 18. Students are required to receive two negative COVID-19 tests during the two-week period.
During the first week of the quarantine period, Northwestern’s COVID-19 dashboard reported a 5.54 percent positivity rate with 909 cases through Thursday. This is over 15 times more than the 60 cases reported during the week of Thanksgiving.
Rutgers will hold its first two weeks online through Jan. 31. All eligible students must have received a booster shot before returning to campus, according to a universitywide COVID-19 update Tuesday.
Booster requirements in the Big Ten
Maryland, Northwestern, Michigan and Illinois will join Rutgers and also mandate booster shots for all eligible students this semester.
Ohio State has not announced a plan to require a booster shot for the community, but encourages the community to get boosted and submit their record to BuckMD , Johnson said.
Starting Monday, boosters will be available at the Jesse Owens North Recreation Center.