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University classes to switch online for next 2 weeks in hopes of halting spread of virus

| Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Undergraduate classes will move online for the next two weeks, until at least Wednesday, Sept. 2, and public spaces on campus will close, University President Fr. John Jenkins said in an address to the Notre Dame community Tuesday.

After 89 students tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday and the number of total positive cases increased to 147 by noon Tuesday, Jenkins spoke to students, faculty and staff directly in a virtual meeting instead of participating in the scheduled question-and-answer session, as was previously planned for the event.

“Upon receiving recent results, we began to make plans to try to send you home and continue instruction online as we did last spring; however, with the advice and encouragement of Dr. Mark Fox, we’ve decided to take steps short of sending students home,” Jenkins said.

Off-campus students are barred from campus, and on-campus students should remain on campus except under emergency situations. Student gatherings should be restricted to 10 people or fewer. Varsity athletics team can continue to gather for activities if students are subject to routine surveillance.

The majority of cases have been linked to off-campus gatherings, according to contact tracing analysis.

“Students infected at those gatherings passed it on to others, who in turn have passed the virus on to a further group, resulting in the positive cases we have seen,” Jenkins said.

While many students who have tested positive have violated safety guidelines, Jenkins said students will not be disciplined through information they relay to contact tracers.

“If however, we learn of a serious violation of our policy from other sources, we will take disciplinary action,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins urged students to observe health protocols in order to continue the semester on campus.

“The virus is a formidable foe,” Jenkins said. “For the past week, it has been winning. Let us, as the Fighting Irish, join together to contain it.”

A follow-up email from vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding and vice president for campus safety and University operations Mike Seamon specified in-person classes will be suspended until at least Wednesday, Sept. 2.

Graduate and professional student in-person classes are suspended until at least Monday, Aug. 24 the email said.

The email included enhanced safety modifications. Mask wearing is required at all times both inside and outside on campus, with the exception of students in their assigned residence hall rooms.

Regarding residence life, the email said, “Undergraduate students who live on campus should minimize non-essential activity for at least the next two weeks, and remain on Notre Dame’s campus at all times.”

Only those living or working in designated residence halls are allowed inside the building. All official programming must be virtual and residents must follow common space occupancy limits.

“Mass will continue to be offered as scheduled in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and for residence hall communities with all health and safety protocols in place,” the email said.

The Smith Center for Recreational Sports, the Rockne Memorial and all hall fitness rooms will be closed.

Duncan Student Center and LaFortune Student Center will remain open for remote class participation with modified hours. LaFortune’s restaurants, Legends and Rohr’s will remain available exclusively through GrubHub and carry out.

Students can only dine at Notre Dame dining halls, which will remain open, and not at Saint Mary’s College or Holy Cross.

The email revealed some positive cases have occurred due to the sharing of meals when masks were not worn.

“Students should eat exclusively either outside at a strict physical distance or in their residence hall rooms,” the email said.

Student clubs and organizations are to meet virtually. The student activities fair, which was to take place this weekend, has been postponed.

Regarding off-campus undergraduates students, the email urged the population to likewise minimize non-essential activity.

“These students should not come to campus at this time unless an exception is granted,” the email said.

Off-campus undergraduates should not gather inside with anyone they do not live with.

The University will be increasing its monitoring of campus spaces and activity, especially near the tents and throughout the night. Noncompliant students, especially those responsible for hosting unsafe gatherings, will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including expulsion from the University.

“University authorities cannot be in all spaces at all times,” the email said. “Compliance depends on all community members having the courage to call others to behavior that protects us all.”

In the email, the University also apologized for the handling of certain cases.

“The number of cases we experienced in the first week of classes far exceeded our estimates, and it stressed the new systems we put in place to test and care for our community members,” the email said.

The University apologized for the delay in responding to some student calls regarding medical care and concerns, and for the delay of care for some students in isolation and quarantine.

“Preventing further spread requires urgent action from each of us,” the email said.

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