Chapel Hill and Notre Dame Are Just the Beginning

August 19, 2020
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The Chronicle of Higher Education

On Monday, after just one week of in-person classes, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported 135 new coronavirus cases among students and staff over seven days, and announced it would go all-online for undergraduate instruction. The next day, the University of Notre Dame took instruction online for at least two weeks, after tallying 147 positive cases since the beginning of the month (that number has since increased to 222).

These early experiences suggest that learning in person this fall may be harder to pull off than some college leaders anticipated. Should other colleges take the experiences of UNC and Notre Dame, which started their semesters relatively early, as a warning?

Public-health experts interviewed by The Chronicle responded with a resounding “yes.”

“For universities going back to more or less in-person operations, this is extremely likely without aggressive testing plans,” said Carl T. Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, who previously argued in The Chronicle that widespread testing of asymptomatic people on campuses is necessary. “I think it was entirely predictable.”

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