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Colleges clamp down on student activity as spring semester gets underway

As schools welcome students back, some have already put stronger restrictions in place to avoid further spread of COVID-19.
Student doing remote learning
Photograph: Shutterstock

While spring classes get started at colleges and universities across the country, some have already put greater restrictions in place to avoid a worsening COVID-19 situation on campus.

At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where the semester began on Feb. 1, a “high-risk” designation remains in effect through at least Feb. 21. As part of the change in assessed risk, which was enacted earlier this week, all-in person instruction was moved online, and students who live on and off campus are expected to sequester themselves except to get food or a COVID test, or to seek medical attention.

This shift came after the campus saw close to 300 positive COVID tests in three days, and students’ failure to comply with the updated guidelines could lead to disciplinary action, per a letter to the campus community from UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

Similar actions were undertaken at the University of California at Berkeley, where an order for residential students to self-sequester has been extended until at least Feb. 15. The order, originally put in place on Feb. 1, came in response to a surge in COVID cases, which the university says it believes is connected to small get-togethers held off campus.The school had been planning to test some indoor instruction in person as early as next week.

And at Michigan State University, students have been asked to employ “enhanced social distancing” following a rise in the campus positivity rate. The school's 2-week mandate, which is slated to end on Saturday, says that students should refrain from entering campus or leaving their dorms save for a small selection of reasons, which includes picking up meals, receiving medical attention, attending in-person instruction or using secure internet.

During this time, MSU’s eateries are also closed to dining in.  

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