By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The University of Wyoming has paused its plan for resuming to in-person classes due to a surge of active coronavirus cases among its community this week, the university announced late Wednesday.
The pause is in effect for at least five business days to fully assess the prevalence of the coronavirus infection among UW students, faculty and staff, university officials said in a news release.
The pause was triggered by positive coronavirus tests among five students who were exhibiting symptoms of the virus on Wednesday.
By the end of the pause period on Sept. 9, UW President Ed Seidel will determine whether the university will take the next steps for returning to the phased fall plan for in-person education or shift to online classes completely.
The contingency plan for a pause in the return to in-person classes was previously approved by the university’s board of trustees and directs that five or more positive tests of symptomatic individuals among UW students and employees in Laramie in a single day will prompt a pause of five business days.
“This pause is necessary for us to gather information and gain a more complete picture of what’s happening with the virus at UW. We have planned and prepared for this possibility and are ready to evaluate and work toward resuming in-person operations,” Seidel said in a news release. “Our sincere hope is that it will be possible to resume our fall return plan after this pause, based upon the rigorous testing, tracing and quarantine protocols we have put in place to protect the health and safety of our students, employees and broader community.”
Under the pause plan, new guidelines include:
- Students in UW campus housing and in Laramie should shelter in place;
- All courses will be delivered online during the five-day period;
- All employees, with the exception of those designated as critical “pause” personnel, should work remotely;
- All face-to-face activities are suspended unless approval is given through an exception process;
UW students are instructed to have contact with members of their “pods” during a pause. For example, students living in a residence hall would only contact students who share their floor.
Students living off-campus or in UW apartments are instructed to only contact those in the same dwelling.
Residence Life and Dining Services are making arrangements for food service and activities for residence hall students during the pause.
“From both public health and academic standpoints, we’re asking our students in the residence halls to hang in there during this pause,” Vice President for Student Affairs Kim Chestnut said in a news release. “This shelter-in-place approach is only temporary, and we should know within five business days whether we’re resuming our phased return plan — which is our hope — or going fully online as we did in the spring.”
Students in the residence halls who have jobs or other off-campus responsibilities are allowed to leave for those duties.
UW first-time students who are moving into residence halls over the weekend are allowed to move in as scheduled, but are instructed to follow the pod requirements when they arrive.
In-person instruction of those students’ first-year seminars – which was scheduled to begin Monday, as the start of Phase 2 of UW’s fall return plan – will now be delayed, and online instruction will continue.
No students, employees or researchers will be allowed to host on-campus visits by during the pause.
Most campus facilities are closed, with these exceptions: the Early Care and Education Center; the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory; the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic in the Health Sciences Building; and the Psychology Clinic in the Biological Sciences Building.
UW laboratories and other research facilities continue to conduct research activities while reducing lab and facility personnel to limit the spread of coronavirus, as was done in the spring at the start of the pandemic.
Athletic facilities remain open for necessary activities, including the athletic training table, sports medicine and sports performance. Practices and workouts continue in a modified fashion.
UW’s fall semester classes began Aug. 24 with online course delivery under the university’s phased return plan.