By Abigail Cloutier
Increasing COVID-19 cases on Youngstown State University’s campus are sending students home for the remainder of the fall semester after Nov. 24. Many universities adopted the same policy earlier in their fall semesters to mitigate travel-related spread of the virus.
“The travel for Thanksgiving probably doesn’t touch us as much as it does a lot of universities. I’d say 80-85% of our students are from right around here. So really, the Thanksgiving travel didn’t have as much to do with us moving primarily remote,” university president James Tressel said. “So, as the numbers really spiked, we were sitting in October with a handful of positives, and we get to a dozen, and all of a sudden we get to 30 plus.”
After Thanksgiving break from Nov. 25-27, the last week of classes and finals week will be primarily online, according to an email sent to YSU students Thursday. Campus will remain open for the last two weeks of fall semester and facilities like residence halls, the library and meal services will still be available.
Last week, YSU reported 37 new cases, and Monday the dashboard showed 43 cases. Most of these cases are classified as students living off-campus, which includes university apartments such as the Courtyards, University Edge and the Enclave. Only a handful of these cases were staff members. YSU does not include unconfirmed cases in its total, such as students who quarantine for possible exposure to the virus.
It’s an increase reflected throughout the state. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine implemented a curfew, going into effect today, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. lasting 21 days. The majority of Ohio counties are in the red alert level of COVID-19 spread.
Yesterday, YSU offered free BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Testing to students, faculty and staff before Thanksgiving break. The university has not yet decided if they will change the academic calendar for the spring 2021 semester.
“Spring breaks were invented because people needed breaks. And not just the students, but the faculty,” Tressel said. “So we’re going to be talking about that quite a bit here, but in the next month, we don’t really need to make that decision real quickly, keeping an eye on how things are going from a COVID standpoint, and also weighing in the whole mental health part of it.”
Yesterday, Pfizer and BioNTech concluded their phase-3 study of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. According to Pfizer, the vaccine has 95% efficacy. However, the data is not yet peer reviewed by independent researchers. Another vaccine candidate from Moderna shows similar efficacy rates. Both vaccine candidates must receive government approval before distribution and manufacturing. According to NPR and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, vaccinations could begin in December, but the vaccine is not expected to be widely available until 2021.