Notre Dame Suspends In-Person Classes After 8 Days Amid COVID Outbreak

by Christina Marfice
The Main Building on the campus of Notre Dame University

Notre Dame is the latest college to halt its reopening plans amid a sudden cluster of COVID-19 cases among students

As more schools in the U.S. attempt to reopen amid an out-of-control coronavirus outbreak in many states, more and more reports are making headlines about reversed reopening decisions. Schools that attempted to open are now being forced to suspend in-person classes, either temporarily or for the rest of the semester, after a very predictable spike in COVID-19 cases among their students and staff. Notre Dame is now the latest of those.

The prestigious university began its fall semester just eight days before it announced that it would suspend in-person classes for the next two weeks. According to Notre Dame officials, 146 students and staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus. Since Aug. 3, a total of 947 of the school’s 12,000 students have been tested, making the case positivity rate at Notre Dame around 15-and-a-half percent. For safe reopening, the Harvard Global Health Institute recommends a case positivity rate of 0.025 percent.

“The virus is a formidable foe,” Notre Dame University President Father John Jenkins said in a press release. “For the past week, it has been winning. Let us as the Fighting Irish join together to contain it.”

Notre Dame officials point to their contact tracing program when they say that the majority of the school’s positive cases have come from seniors who live off-campus and have attended social events and gatherings where there were no social distancing measures in place. The school also said that no students have been hospitalized from the virus.

The school is also enacting more severe prevention measures going forward. “Masks must now be worn on campus at all times and in all places (outside and inside), except by students in their assigned residence hall rooms. Physical distancing must be more vigilant, both inside and outside. The tents on campus will now be monitored by University staff,” they said on their Twitter account.

Notre Dame’s decision to suspend in-person classes came on the same day that Michigan State University abruptly abandoned its reopening plans and told undergrads to stay home for the rest of the fall semester, “effective immediately.” In a letter to students, Michigan State President Samuel Stanley Jr. pointed to the “current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities.” Remote classes are now scheduled to begin on Sept. 2.

And on Monday, a day before Notre Dame made its announcement, UNC-Chapel Hill became the first U.S. university to shut down after attempting to reopen. Classes began Aug. 10, and since then, 130 students and five staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, school officials said.

“Many students, graduate workers, staff, some faculty members and even the local county health department warned that this was going to happen,” said Lamar Richards, a student chairperson on the Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity at UNC, adding that outbreaks could be attributed to the school administration’s “carelessness and dereliction of duty.”