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Climbing COVID-19 cases are not curbing plans for more in-person courses, events

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Though cases are expected to rise over the next few months, plans to increase the number of in-person classes for the upcoming spring 2021 semester are still underway, along with allowing face-to-face group gatherings.

None of the cases the university has reported were tied back to classrooms holding face-to-face clases, said Jennifer Cowley, the provost and vice president for student affairs.

“Our contact tracing team works on each UNT-related case,” Cowley said. “To date, there has been no incidence of community spread related to the classroom. Community spread has primarily been occurring as a result of social engagements.”

Cowley said while schedules would remain as offered, the university could tweak the schedule to offer more options based on what it sees.

“Public health conditions are continuously monitored and flexibility is necessary as it is possible that changes could occur as necessary,” Cowley said. “The measures put in place in our classrooms has worked, as the community spread of COVID-19 is not tied to any of them. Currently, the spring semester includes a mix of in-person, remote, and online instruction.”

The university formed a hybrid committee for approving co-curricular, in-person events. Running from Nov. 2 to Thanksgiving break, the committee reviewed requests for in-person events from student and department organizations, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Elizabeth With.

“The hybrid committee reviewed 17 departmental and 14 student organization events/meetings,” With said. “Thirteen of the departmental events were approved. One moved their entire event online before our decision was made, two were denied because participation could not be limited to 10 or fewer individuals and one is a spring event we’ll review again later. Eleven of the student organizations were approved, while one moved virtual before we reviewed it. Two events were denied because they involved physical activity.”

With said the committee and the university will continue to evaluate in-person events into next year.

“It’s our hope to have more,” With said. “But we just don’t know yet. We will know more as we get into January.”

Physics senior Axel Acosta said he did not mind more in-person classes, though he was concerned about COVID-19 cases increasing.

“I think caution is still something to be considered, given the fact cases are still rising,” Acosta said. “I’m not necessarily against in-person classes. I wouldn’t say the university shouldn’t have them […] provided that social distancing is capped and masks are required per policy.”

Acosta said he was similarly cautious about in-person groups being allowed back on campus.

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“I think it really depends on what they are,” Acosta said. “If you’re saying activities that require people being close together or weak masks… I don’t think that would work. As long as they follow a good health policy, I think it should be fine.”

Cowley said the university would continue to keep an eye on COVID-19 cases state and nationwide and follow the health codes put out by Denton County and Texas in the event of another lockdown.

“Should health directives be put in place we would follow them,” Evans-Cowley said. “In the spring when the county issued a stay-at-home order we continued to provide housing in our residence halls, meals for our students and our library was accessible for students who needed a quiet place to study and use computers. We will continue to adapt to serve our students’ needs.”

Article Originally Published by Will Tarpley on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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