Classes to begin virtually due to increasing COVID-19 cases

Students walk near a VCU sign on Monroe Park Campus. CT File Photo

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Spring semester classes will begin completely virtually with the exception of certain experiential-based learning activities, according to a release from the university’s president.

The semester will start online as scheduled on Jan. 25. Students enrolled in clinicals, field placements, practica, co-ops and internships, however, may begin those classes in person. VCU and VCU Health System President Michael Rao said the university hopes to evaluate beginning in-person classes in February and resume them on or before March 8.

“As pandemic conditions improve, we have every intention to resume in-person instruction as originally planned,” Rao said in the release.

Rao cited increasing COVID-19 cases as the reason for the change.

“Models suggest the number of cases in Virginia will continue to rise into February,” the release stated. “They already are four times higher than at the beginning of the fall semester.”

Fall 2020 classes began Aug. 17, when Virginia’s seven-day moving average for positive cases was 953, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The same metric as of Tuesday is 5,148 cases. 

Rao said the university is planning vaccine distribution to students and employees. The release states students in “front-facing clinical placements and patient care” may start receiving vaccinations this week.

“A bright spot on the horizon is COVID-19 vaccinations,” Rao said.

The university is working with the Virginia Department of Health to further distribute vaccinations for all faculty and staff, the release states.

VCU is implementing mandatory asymptomatic surveillance testing for residential students, those who attend classes on campus and employees who work on campus. Those selected are required to schedule a test and show up for the appointment. 

The asymptomatic surveillance testing, previously known as prevalence testing, is conducted with a nasal swab.

VCU is also introducing Entry Pass, an application that will show if students and employees are completing daily health checks and cooperating, if selected, with asymptomatic surveillance testing.

Students and employees will have to use Entry Pass — on a laptop, the VCUMobile app or with a printed version — to access some on-campus buildings, including the University Student Commons, VCU Libraries, Shafer Court Dining Center, Cary Street Gym, MCV Campus Recreation Center, Thalhimer Tennis Court and Cary Street Field.

According to VCU’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were 95 reported positive coronavirus cases among students and employees as of Tuesday. Out of 2,033 entry tests, which are mandatory for residential students, 2.1% have returned positive. The site states two on-campus students are living in isolation, which is for those who test positive, and two are living in quarantine, which restricts those who may have been exposed. 

Study abroad programs are canceled through May 2021, and students are required to complete return to campus training before the first day of classes on Jan. 25. 

Much like the fall semester, supply kits will be available for pickup at the University Student Commons and the Hunton Student Center at 1110 E. Broad St. Additional supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and face coverings will be available at no cost to VCU ID holders in vending machines across campus. One of each item may be claimed per month per card holder.

VCU has prepped certain classrooms in Hibbs Hall for eating and studying with availability Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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