During a livestreamed address to the university, today Notre Dame's President, Father John Jenkins, announced that for the next two weeks the university will move undergraduate classes to remote instruction and close public spaces on campus. Residence halls will be restricted to those who live there only.
Jenkins announced that there are now 147 positive cases. He says originally the university was going to send everyone home, but based on advice from the St. Joseph County Health Officer, the school is taking steps short of that.
Off-campus students need to stay at their off-campus locations for the next two weeks. And gatherings are now limited to ten people with masks and social distancing required.
Jenkins says contact tracing shows the spread is happening at off-campus gatherings, but he says the university will not use information gained through contact tracing to punish students because the university needs students to be forthright about who they have been around.
As of two days ago, Notre Dame had 67 positive cases.
Jenkins says the university will enhance testing in the coming weeks to catch positive cases earlier.
Students started classes a week ago last Monday on August 10th. At that time, the university publicized that 99.7% of students tested negative before returning to campus.
(You can read the entire news release from the university below.)
University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced today that in-person classes for the University’s nearly 12,000 students are suspended, effective Wednesday, replaced by remote instruction only for the next two weeks because positive rates for the coronavirus continue to climb.
“With the advice and encouragement of Dr. Mark Fox of the St. Joseph County Health Department, we believe we can take steps short of sending students home for remote instruction, at least for the time being, while still protecting the health and safety of the campus community,” Father Jenkins told students in a virtual meeting this afternoon.
“The virus is a formidable foe,” Father Jenkins said in announcing enhanced testing for students experiencing symptoms and surveillance testing for those without symptoms. “For the past week, it has been winning. Let us as the Fighting Irish join together to contain it.”
Since classes resumed Aug. 10, Notre Dame has recorded a steady increase in positive rates among students, mainly seniors living off-campus. As of noon today, 147 people have tested positive among the 927 tested since Aug. 3. None was hospitalized, and all but one — a staff member — were students. Most resided off-campus, linked to off-campus gatherings where neither masks were worn nor physical distancing observed.
“Our contact-tracing analysis indicates that most infections are coming from off-campus gatherings,” Father Jenkins said. “Students infected at those gathering passed it on to others, who in turn have passed the virus on to others, resulting in the positive cases we have seen.”
Father Jenkins also asked students to help in identifying others who have been flagrantly violating safety protocols. “For your sake and the sake of our community and for continuing our semester on campus, please observe health protocols and avoid behavior that puts yourself or others at risk,” Father Jenkins said.
The University also announced these measures:
- Until further notice, off-campus students should not visit campus. On-campus students should refrain from leaving campus except under emergency circumstances.
- Student gatherings off or on campus are restricted to 10 people or fewer.
- All research laboratories, core facilities and libraries remain open to graduate students, faculty and staff.
- The COVID-19 Response Unit, the University Testing Center and Notre Dame’s quarantine and isolation facilities will remain fully operational.
- All students, faculty and staff are reminded to complete their daily health checks.
- Varsity athletic teams that are subject to routine surveillance testing may continue to gather for sanctioned activities according to established protocols and will be closely monitored.
According to a post on Notre Dame's website, Fr. Jenkins plans to address the university community at 5pm today (Tuesday.) A livestream of the address will be shown on ND's website.
Notre Dame's COVID-19 dashboard shows positive cases have more than doubled in a day between Aug. 16 and 17. Notre Dame has been the subject of some national media attention as off-campus parties have been blamed for cases at the university. Last Friday, South Bend and St. Joseph County officials expressed concern about the risks for community spread as college students returned for fall classes.
Meantime, elsewhere across the country, North Carolina’s flagship university is switching all undergraduate classes to remote learning due to the spread of coronavirus during the first week of classes. Officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and schools around the U.S. are scrambling to deal with new cases amid the start of the fall semester. Cases were reported at Oklahoma State University after maskless students packed into a nightclub. Schools in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama also were not immune, as officials were frustrated by the lack of social distancing and scenes of crowded entertainment districts and bars on the first weekend many students returned to school.