College students in the United States are currently spending their winter break away from schools. A rise in COVID-19 cases could mean that they will be spending a little more time away from campus.
Many colleges are moving classes online for the first few weeks of the new year. Others permit students to return but require them to stay in their rooms for class. So far, more than 70 colleges across 26 states are starting the term online, and others say they are considering it.
At the University of California in Riverside – a city east of Los Angeles – students must stay in their rooms for five days. And they are required to pass two separate virus tests before being permitted to spend time with others.
Kim Wilcox is the school’s chancellor, one of its top leaders. He said the plan is to rebuild the school’s “bubble” after students spent Christmas and New Year’s away from campus.
The University of Chicago is delaying the start of the new quarter to January 10. Students will take classes online for the first two weeks. And the plan is to have students back in person on January 24.
Christina Howard is graduating from the University of Chicago in June. She said she never could have imagined that almost half of her time in college would be affected by the pandemic.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling to be doing this again in my last year. I had really hoped that I would get a full year to finish on a more normal kind of note. But I guess that’s not going to happen.”
When asked whether she thinks the university will start on the new date, she said “we’ll see.”
Some schools, including Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, are asking students to get an additional shot of vaccine, also known as a booster.
Sue Lorenson is the Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education at Georgetown. She told VOA the university will require all students and professors to have a COVID-19 booster shot by January 21.
Georgetown plans to start classes online before moving to in-person classes on January 31. The hope, Lorenson said, is that the number of COVID-19 cases in Washington will decrease by mid-January.
“One thing that I think will make a big difference to students this time around is that compared to last year, students are able to return to their residence halls on campus as originally scheduled in mid-January. Which will allow them to reconnect with their classmates.”
Ken Henderson is a top leader at Northeastern. He told the Associated Press that he thinks COVID-19 is becoming “endemic” and the school wants to “control COVID effectively, not let COVID control us.” Endemic means the virus will continue to exist in some areas but will not affect all the people in all areas like a pandemic.
In the central part of the U.S., the University of Illinois plans to have students come back to classes in-person after a one-week delay. Robin Kaler is a spokeswoman for the university. She said the university expects a “spike” when students come back.
“We want to make sure we’re on top of that so we can crush it as quickly as possible,” she said.
Jake Maynard is a student at George Washington University, another college in the nation’s capital. He said he is fine with a week of online classes, but beyond that, he hopes officials trust in the booster shots and provide a traditional college experience.
“I’m a junior, but about half my schooling experience has been online,” Maynard told the Associated Press. “You lose so much of what makes the school the school.”