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St. Louis area colleges change plans for Thanksgiving break with coronavirus surging

St. Louis area colleges change plans for Thanksgiving break with coronavirus surging

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Students at Washington University who travel out of the region for Thanksgiving will be locked out of campus buildings for the rest of the fall semester, school officials said Thursday.

“We continue to strongly advise all Danforth Campus undergraduate students who wish to complete the fall semester in person to stay in St. Louis and avoid gatherings with people outside your home over the Thanksgiving break,” read a letter to students from Chancellor Andrew Martin.

All undergraduates must fill out a Thanksgiving travel commitment form, and those traveling more than 60 miles from campus will have their campus access cards deactivated, according to the letter.

The campus moved to an orange alert level on Oct. 23, second-highest in its four-tier system, because of worsening coronavirus trends in the region. A total of 94 undergraduates have tested positive for COVID-19 since August.

Classes at St. Louis University will wrap up before Thanksgiving, with final exams taken online under a plan created over the summer in anticipation of a fall surge in coronavirus cases. The spring semester is scheduled to start Jan. 28.

There have been 342 cases of COVID-19 among SLU students since August, for a positivity rate of 3.8% of students tested. More than one-fourth of the cases have been recorded in the last 10 days, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The recent rise in cases is attributed to a birthday party and Halloween parties where students were not wearing masks. None of the cases have been traced to exposures in classrooms or labs, said Terri Rebmann, director of SLU’s Institute for Biosecurity and a lead adviser for the university’s pandemic response.

“Relatively speaking, students are significantly safer on campus than they are in the community,” she said.

The University of Missouri will also move its classes online after Thanksgiving, but plans to return to in-person learning in the spring semester, Chancellor Mun Y. Choi said Thursday.

The university began the fall semester as a coronavirus hot spot, but Choi said in a message posted online that the university had reduced its active caseload by 80% since Labor Day weekend.

He said the university had been confident about completing the semester in person, but has identified a surge in cases in Columbia and Boone County.

“While our experts say that MU students have not presented a direct burden to the local hospitals because they have not needed hospitalization, we are all members of the broader community,” Choi wrote on the university’s website. “And as the community strives to gain control of the virus, a temporary thinning of the student population is helpful.”

Most classes at St. Louis Community College will be livestreamed starting Monday and for at least a few weeks after Thanksgiving, according to emails sent Tuesday to students and staff.

At Fontbonne University, which has recorded 24 cases of COVID-19 among the campus community this fall, freshmen can raise their grade-point averages over the winter break in a new program designed to combat the academic effects of the pandemic. Any first-year student who withdrew from a class or received a D or F grade can take a make-up course online to replace their grade.

Fall commencement ceremonies at Lindenwood University will be held virtually in December. All classes will move online after Thanksgiving, but students can stay in the dorms.

Jeremy Kohler of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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