COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the U.S. once again, with a new single-day record of 83,757 cases on Oct. 23 and an estimated half-million deaths by Feb. 28. This third wave is expected to be worse than both the first and second waves.
This third wave puts new variables on the table for universities proceeding into the spring semester. Right now, Lewis is planning on the spring semester being in a similar hybrid format of the fall semester but is preparing for other possibilities as well.
“There is certainly growth in positive cases across the country and in our region, so we’re going to keep tracking it and prepare for different scenarios for January,” said Provost Dr. Christopher Sindt. “There are other factors such as how potential vaccines evolve when we’re thinking about the whole spring semester, but we’re focusing on students returning to campus. We’re modeling a start similar to what we are doing now and also modeling the possibility for further restrictions or a return to Phase 3 in the Restore Illinois Plan.”
Changes to the spring semester have already been made by pushing the start back one week to Jan. 18 and modifying spring break from one week to a four-day weekend. This gives students and faculty time to quarantine if they need to before the semester begins.
Lewis students and staff have been successful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 cases on campus this fall, and there should be similar success if students continue to follow the Flyer’s Promise.
“It’s been so noticeable and inspiring how the student community has positively responded to all the challenges and things Lewis has asked of them in order to maintain health standards and it’s really made a difference,” said Sindt. “It has allowed us to keep the schedule going the way that we have been doing all fall. It’s the students that have adapted so well to the challenges and making it possible [to stay on campus].”
The majority of the positive cases Lewis has experienced are correlated to off-campus or after-hour activities. There have been little to no cases from classrooms, co-curriculars or activities. Overall, the faculty and students are doing a great job at following guidelines, but it is important to remember to follow the guidelines off campus as well.
Lewis has been able to keep the spread of COVID-19 on campus under control, but the rest of the nation doesn’t appear to be doing the same. This could affect our chances of staying on campus in the spring. Universal mask-wearing could save up to 130,000 lives, but according to a study done by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, less than 50% of U.S. residents reported they always wear a mask in public. Practices such as wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distance and washing hands regularly are vital to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring life can get back to normal.
The plan for next semester is unclear due to constant changes during the pandemic, but university officials are keeping up to date with COVID-19 so that the Lewis community can continue to stay healthy.