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Loyola, Northwestern to allow more students on campus in January despite COVID spike

On the day Illinois announced its second-highest daily tally of coronavirus cases, Loyola and Northwestern announced plans to bring thousands of students back next term.

Northwestern, along with Loyola University Chicago, announced plans to reopen their campuses more widely in the winter.
Northwestern, along with Loyola University Chicago, announced plans to reopen their campuses more widely in the winter.
Sun-Times file

Loyola University and Northwestern University both plan to bring more students back for the winter term despite the ongoing coronavirus spike that has led to increased restrictions in Chicago and the suburbs.

Both schools announced their plans Wednesday, the same day the state reported 6,110 newly confirmed cases of the virus ― the second-highest daily tally ever. Along with rising cases, Illinois hospitals are treating the most coronavirus patients they’ve seen since June 4, with 2,861 beds occupied. Bans on indoor dining and caps on gatherings in eight of the state’s 11 regions under the governor’s plan have been implemented as a result.

That trend continued Thursday, with another 6,363 cases reported.

Loyola announced expansions, most notably an increase in the number of in-person classes. Beginning next semester, 10% of all undergraduate courses will be in-person, and single-room dorms will reopen. This fall, Loyola largely kept dorms closed and classes online.

Loyola officials also said spring break would be canceled and replaced with two long weekends to discourage travel, which could spread COVID-19. The school has had 23 new cases in the last seven days, according to Loyola’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The school’s next term begins Jan. 19 for undergraduates. And to curb a winter spread, the university will increase testing for all students, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

“Like other universities, we have learned much since the beginning of the pandemic and we trust our community to remain informed, vigilant, and caring so that we can best experience a spring semester in an expanded operational capacity,” Loyola’s announcement said.

Northwestern students are encouraged to return to campus beginning Jan. 3 in a staged fashion after undergoing testing and following a quarantine procedure, an email to the campus community outlined. After quarantining, limited in-person activities will begin, including club and intramural sports. Most classes will remain online.

Last Saturday, Evanston saw its highest single-day increase in positive cases, but Northwestern President Morton Schapiro says the school’s campus-wide positivity rate supported the decision to bring all undergraduate students back to campus for winter quarter.

For most of the fall, the school’s positivity rate has been below 0.6%, but the rate has jumped to 1.07% in the last seven days. During that time, 53 new cases have been reported, according to Northwestern’s public dashboard.

In the email, Schapiro noted the uptick and said the university will monitor the situation.

“The evolving nature of the pandemic means we must remain flexible,” Schapiro wrote. “As long as the positivity rate stabilizes and does not continue increasing, we will be able to continue to support the COVID-related needs of our community.”

Earlier this month, DePaul University announced increased in-person classes and a modest increase in housing for next term, with details being sent to students in early November. All Winter Quarter classes from Jan. 4 through Jan. 18 will be online; in-person classes begin Jan. 19.

The Illinois Institute of Technology announced Oct. 22 they’re working toward increasing in-person classes and housing by the end of the current semester.

On Thursday, the University of Chicago announced a plan to increase its number of in-person classes during the winter. Class Instructors will decide if courses will be offered in person or virtually. Students planning on living on campus will be required to quarantine upon arrival and follow a mandatory testing program throughout the term.

The University of Illinois-Chicago and Columbia College have not publicly released plans for next term. With Columbia College’s fall term disrupted by coronavirus concerns, some classes were taught in Grant Park.