Despite some colleges indicating to the contrary, it seems many other US universities will be holding classes in-person in the fall. How? Well, there are a number of steps aiming to keep COVID-19 from enjoying a second major wave. Experts expect the virus to wane throughout the summer months, thanks to aggressive social distancing measures as well as warm temperatures.
However, by late fall, the virus is expected to make a major resurgence. This is in line with other coronaviruses, like the flu, which come and go in seasons of cold weather. Likewise, as the pandemic has worn on, most of the world has seen flattening rates of infection. This could, in turn, allow the summer and fall of this year to look somewhat more normal than the spring.
Some optimistic preliminary findings suggested that the novel coronavirus could even be mutating to be less deadly over time. Other factors driving optimism are encouraging results from medications like remdesivir, which has been shown to help with the virus in some clinical trials. Additionally, several labs working to create vaccines for the virus have reported that they’ve made massive breakthroughs.
The air of cautious optimism is currently driving some colleges to consider reopening. However, nothing is set in stone; most COVID-19 research has yet to be peer-reviewed. Many drugs that could be helpful in treatment still need more testing. And vaccines could still be a long way off if the current candidates don’t pan out.
Colleges like the University of South Carolina and Notre Dame are aiming to have a shortened fall semester. They plan to skip fall break and squeeze more courses in before Thanksgiving. This means that they could then send students home by Thanksgiving and allow for a longer winter break.
Colleges hope this strategy will help their students avoid the spikes of the virus. Many labs are confident that by early 2021 they will have created a vaccine for the virus. This could allow schools to safely reopen in time for a partially truncated spring semester. However, the exact details are hard to predict, due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic response.
As colleges prepare for rough fall and spring semesters through 2020 and 2021, the virus will severely reduce attendance.
Many students who were enrolled at universities that are holding online-only classes in the fall don’t expect to resume their education until they can return to in-person classes. This will lead to a very tense financial situation for many of the nation’s schools.