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BREAKING: AU to move classes online for the beginning of spring semester

Classes will resume in-person after Jan. 30, boosters required by Feb. 10

American University announced that classes will take place online until Jan. 30 as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads in D.C. and across the country. 

In an email to the AU community Wednesday, President Sylvia Burwell encouraged all students, faculty and staff to get a COVID-19 test 48 hours before they return to campus. 

All students who live in residence halls and faculty and staff who may be returning to campus for work purposes will be required to test within 48 hours of arrival upon returning to campus from break. Additionally, students who would like to use the library or other on-campus facilities must get a test upon their initial return to campus. 

“While we sought to avoid another move to online classes, this is not a return to the situation we faced in spring 2020. Rather, it is a short-term, prudent approach to the current situation and risk factors,” Burwell wrote.

Burwell said that the changes are in line with the University’s initial response to the pandemic, which focused on supporting the health and safety of the community, advancing its mission and contributing to the overall response to COVID-19. Burwell also said that “certain populations” may have additional requirements for testing based on their risk level of specific activities. 

“Identifying positive cases and taking appropriate steps before the return to campus will help support our continued activities and safety throughout this first month when overall community spread is expected to remain high,” Burwell wrote. 

All students, faculty and staff will still be required to receive their booster doses of the coronavirus vaccine by Feb. 10, as the University previously announced. On Dec. 8, Burwell outlined plans for an in-person spring semester. 

Residence halls will open as scheduled and University buildings will remain open to students, Burwell wrote. However, she encouraged students to remain at home as it may be “more convenient” for participation in online classes or isolation if they test positive. On-campus dining services will modify into a grab-and-go option for the month of January.

Campus events will be held online for the entire month of January, and no guests or visitors will be allowed to access campus during this time, Burwell wrote. Lab activities and on-campus research will be permitted to continue in line with safety protocols. However, Burwell said that the University is “exploring possible arrangements” for a small number of science labs and art classes that have in-person requirements. 

George Washington University announced on Dec. 22 that it would hold classes online for the first week of its spring semester, and resume in-person instruction on Jan. 18. Howard University announced on Dec. 27 that the start of its spring semester would be pushed back to Jan.18

NPR reported that the district has the highest level of coronavirus risk in the country, with an average of 2,071 new cases per week. During the week of Dec. 20, more than one in every 100 D.C. residents tested positive for the coronavirus. 

AU’s positivity rate remained relatively low until the end of the fall semester, when the University recorded a spike in COVID-19 cases. The caseload reached a record high of 202 positive tests for the week of Dec. 13 through Dec. 19., out of 3,297 tests done that week — more cases in a single week than for the entirety of the semester. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron cases make up almost three-quarters of all U.S. coronavirus cases. 

“These measures will help keep our community safe; provide time to make any additional adjustments needed to help us continue to live, learn, and work with the ongoing spread of the virus; and support in-person classes and activities for [the] rest of the spring semester,” Burwell wrote. “We are also working to help our community members as the rise in cases affects other parts of our lives, from family health to K-12 schools.”

This is a developing story and will be updated with more information as it becomes available 

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