The University of Delaware said students may return to campus Jan. 2, but winter classes will start virtually as the school tries to stem the tide of Omicron variant COVID-19 cases.
At the same time, Wilmington University said it will react to a new Delaware State of Emergency by closing its campus starting Monday, Jan. 3. Faculty, staff and service departments will be available electronically to students, it said. More information about Spring classes will be released soon, the announcement said.
Gov. John Carney said Thursday he would declare a new State of Emergency because of the record-setting rise of new COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta and Omicron variants. He said he was doing it partly to allow him to ask the National Guard to work as nurses to help handle the rise in cases.
On Thursday, Delaware broke a week-old record by having 1,991 new COVID-19 cases. That number is expected to rise after people gather for the holidays. In the meantime, schools, businesses and other state offices are struggling to stay manned because of infected, isolated and quarantined workers.
Delaware testing sites have been swamped, with many closing early, and most of the people waiting in line have been exposed to the virus or are showing symptoms consistent with a coronavirus infection.
UD said in its message to students, parents, staff and the public that Winter Session classes will start Jan. 3, as planned.
“However, to ensure that all students, faculty and staff who will be on campus during Winter Session have been tested at a UD testing site the first week of January, the majority of Winter Session classes will shift to an online format for the first week,” according to the UD statement. “Although classes will be virtual during this period, residence halls will reopen for Winter Session on schedule from noon-6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 2.”
It also said all students, staff and instructors who will be on campus any time during the Winter Session must be tested during the week of Jan. 3.
After the first week of classes, UD will re-evaluate the situation and the administration hopes to revert to in-person learning “as soon as its is safe do do so,” the statement said.
It also noted that students had been asked receive their booster shot by Jan. 24 but now want faculty and staff “to get the booster as soon as possible.”
Dining Services will move to a grab-and-go only model in the Pencader and Russell dining halls, as well as in the dining areas in the Perkins Student Center and the Trabant University Center.
Staff members who are in offices where in-person interaction is not necessary will continue working from home. Offices that were planning a hybrid working model in 2022 have been asked to pause those plans.
Everyone must wear a mask in shared spaces, except student rooms, the university said.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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