The Latest: Birx says Americans must be strict for pandemic

UNITED NATIONS — The White House coronavirus response coordinator says Americans must not gather indoors with outsiders or take off their masks at any time when they are outdoors — even when they are eating and drinking.

Dr. Deborah Birx says people also have to observe social distancing and wash their hands to contain the coronavirus pandemic. She says some states are taking these measures, but in others it’s “not happening at the level that they need to happen.”

Birx says that even once vaccines are approved, it will take weeks to months before “the most vulnerable individuals in America” can be immunized.

She made the comments after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir at U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday.



— U.S. reaches daily records with more than 3,100 deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations; tops 200,000 daily cases

— Russia vaccine available at 70 facilities in Moscow; hits record 28,145 daily cases

— Getting vaccine to right people could change course of pandemic in U.S.

— Britain is 5th nation to reach 60,000 coronavirus deaths

— Facebook says it will remove misinformation about coronavirus vaccines


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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded 629 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally in about nine months.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that 600 of the newly confirmed patients were domestically transmitted cases — nearly 80 % of them in the densely populous Seoul area, which has been at the center of a recent viral resurgence.

It says the 629 new cases took the country’s total to 36,332 for the pandemic, with 536 deaths related to COVID-19.

After successfully suppressing two previous outbreaks this year, South Korea has been grappling with a fresh spike in infections since it relaxed stringent social distancing rules in October. Last week, it toughened distancing restrictions in the greater Seoul area and other places.


DOVER, Del. — Delaware’s governor is issuing a stay-at-home advisory and implementing a universal mask mandate requiring people to wear cloth face coverings even in their own homes if someone outside the immediate household is present.

Gov. John Carney on Thursday also recommended that schools suspend in-person instruction from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8 and resume hybrid learning on Jan. 11. Winter sports competitions will be prohibited during that period.

The mask mandate will require all Delawareans to wear cloth face coverings anytime they are indoors with anyone outside their immediate household. Delaware has had a public mask mandate since April 28 requiring use of face coverings in public settings where social distancing is not possible.

A spokesman for the governor says officials are relying on voluntary compliance with the mask mandate.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois public health officials have reported 10,959 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and a second consecutive day of near record deaths from COVID-19.

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University of Idaho student’s journal from 1918 flu pandemic ‘frighteningly relevant today’

U of I student Esther Thomas was a very social lady, according to her diary. That is, until the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic shut down the Moscow campus.

MOSCOW, Idaho — While researching for an article for Blot Magazine, University of Idaho journalism student Riley Haun found a diary belonging to a young college student in 1918.

Esther Thomas was a home economics student at the University of Idaho in 1918.  According to her diary, she was a very social lady, until the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic shut down the campus.

“She writes, ‘Still nothing doing. I am almost desperate. Make some sheets.’ And then the next day, the 23rd, ‘Make some more sheets. Desperation increases. What will become of me?'” Haun read of her journal entry dated Oct. 22, 1918. 

“There’s really only one line per day that she wrote, but she packed so much feeling and snarkiness, honestly, about her day-to-day life just in the couple of sentences she writes each time.”

Haun said that during her research, she found that once the first big flu outbreak made it to Moscow, it happened within the Student Army Training Corps members on campus.

“So they quarantined the campus off from the rest of the town,” she said.

Thomas wrote about passing the time by sewing sheets for the Student Army Training Corps infirmary. Eventually, she moved on to making masks. 

“They were requiring the student soldiers to wear masks whenever they were in the barracks,” Haun said. “There was a big push. She was a home economics student so her and the other home economics students were asked to sew masks.”

As each day passed, Thomas’s diary indicated just how lonely the pandemic was becoming.

“The sentiment that she’s expressing of loneliness and boredom and cabin fever, it’s just all so frighteningly relevant today,” Haun said.

Esther’s beautiful, old-fashioned cursive handwriting looks entirely different than what’s typed on the digital pages of the Idaho State Historical Society. But the stories chronicled there of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic are just as revealing.

“And if you go through and read them one after another, you get the feeling that there was an incredible fear and uncertainty back in March.  And then there was no toilet paper. And then kids were excited to be out of school,” state historian HannaLore Hein said.

RELATED: Historical society wants you to help write Idaho’s COVID-19 history

For Haun, reading about the past is comforting. She says that it’s helping her understand that we’ll eventually make it through this pandemic, just as Esther did in 1918.

“I thought that was so relatable for right now,” Haun said. “How things seem to stay the same no matter the circumstance.”

And by knowing the past, HannaLore hopes future generations will be in a place to make better decisions.

She told us that capturing history is just as important as preserving it. That’s why the Idaho State Historical Society continues to collect stories from Idahoans, their personal accounts of

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Pandemic spotlights education inequities. What schools are doing to close the gaps.

When the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic recession hit in early 2020, everyone faced new challenges and abrupt life changes. Some individuals, families, and communities are experiencing the effects more acutely than others — and disruptions to Washington students are particularly concerning.  

“National studies indicate that interruptions in education because of the pandemic are hitting some students of color and students from low-income backgrounds particularly hard compared to their peers,” says Brian Jeffries, policy director for Partnership for Learning.

A recent McKinsey study estimates that, because of COVID-related remote learning, K-12 students could return to school in January 2021 experiencing seven months of learning loss — and losses could be greater if school buildings remain closed beyond January. The study also concludes that learning loss experienced by Black students (10.3 months), Latinx students (9.2 months), and students from low-income backgrounds (12.4 months) could be even greater.

“The pandemic is clearly magnifying educational inequities that have long existed,” Jeffries adds.

In the broader economy, communities of color, young workers, and those with a high school diploma or less are bearing the brunt of the downturn. More than half of Black and Latinx households nationwide reported employment loss due to the pandemic. The national unemployment rate in October for workers age 20 to 24 was more than 1.5 times that of workers age 25 to 54. About two-thirds of workers claiming unemployment in Washington state in November did not have a credential, a 12 percentage point overrepresentation compared to non-credentialed workers in the general population.

“A critical take-away from the current economic recession is that, more than ever, post-high school credentials are essential in our state’s economy,” Jeffries says. “As we all manage life during the pandemic, it is imperative that students continue to learn and get the supports they need to prepare for and complete a credential, such as a degree, apprenticeship, or certificate.”

Strategies such as engaging families, partnering with community-based organizations, and using high-quality diagnostic tools can help maintain learning and support students, particularly those who are further from educational opportunity, to stay on track and work toward completing a postsecondary credential.

Supportive family involvement

As students navigate hybrid and virtual learning, both Liz Ritz, director of teaching and learning at Oak Harbor Schools, and Joycelin Vester, dean of students at North Whidbey Middle School, emphasize the importance of increased involvement with their students’ families to support academic success.

“It’s affirmation for parents to know that educators love and care about their kids and are thinking of them, even if we aren’t seeing them in person,” Vester says.

Educators are communicating with parents more intentionally and on an ongoing basis, and districts are getting creative about how they work together with parents to close equity gaps, says Michaela Miller, deputy superintendent at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

“The pandemic has created a different and more meaningful opportunity to engage with families. The creativity and innovation around parent connection are critically important in closing gaps,” Miller

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Seattle’s tuition-free community college program comes to the rescue during the pandemic | Momaha

Two years ago, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved an education levy giving the city’s public high-school graduates two years of free community college.

But just as the program was gearing up to start its first year at full capacity, the pandemic hit.

Schools shut down. And the recruitment and enrollment specialists stationed at each Seattle high school to raise awareness and help students apply could only work from home.

A summer session meant to help prepare students for college life? That had to be entirely redesigned.

And the students already enrolled in the program? They suddenly needed Wi-Fi, devices and a space to learn on their own.

And yet, in some ways, Seattle Promise couldn’t have come at a better time. Despite the hurdles, the program has exceeded its pandemic-era enrollment projections. That’s even as nationally, community colleges saw a 22% dip; statewide, community college enrollment is down 13.5% this year.

This fall, Seattle Promise counted 846 students, including 699 in their first year, and 147 in their second. That represents about one-third of Seattle Public Schools’ class of 2020. And 62% are students of color.

“There’s a pervasive narrative out there that some students don’t want to go to college. Our students and data suggest that students overwhelmingly want to go to college,” said Nicole Yohalem, opportunity youth initiatives director at The Community Center for Education Results, a nonprofit that provides data, research and other supports for schools in South King County. “They understand how critical some education post-high school is.”

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university lecturers in England on the impact of the pandemic

When the number of students infected with Covid-19 at the University of Birmingham rose sharply earlier this term, Gemma, a senior academic, hoped it would mean an end to in-person teaching. But this proved not to be the case.

a man sitting at a desk in front of a window: Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

“Our students are dropping like flies,” she said. “In my seminars roughly four to eight of 16 students attend. Yet the university insists we come in. To say we feel abandoned and disposable would be putting it too mildly.”

Lecturers across England told the Guardian they feel burnt out by the impact of the pandemic, in which tens of thousands of students have been infected since the start of term. Gemma said she was overwhelmed by the high volume of student emails about serious welfare issues, including many from those in self-isolation.

“Many of them say, ‘I’m confused, I’m frustrated, I’m barely hanging on’,” she said. “One student wrote to me saying, ‘I’m getting tested for Covid but I’m also starting to take medication for depression and who do I talk to?’ I feel out of my depth. I’m working 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week dealing with this. I was just sobbing the other night on the couch, just feeling like this is not sustainable.”

a man sitting at a desk in front of a window: Some lecturers have mentioned receiving a high volume of student emails about serious welfare issues.

© Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Some lecturers have mentioned receiving a high volume of student emails about serious welfare issues.

The responses to the Guardian’s callout reflect a survey by the University and College Union in which staff required to teach in-person said they have not had robust risk assessments, and their institution has not published plans to deal with a Covid-19 outbreak. This comes as the government announced a staggered return for students in the new year, with most courses only taught online for several weeks.

Janet, a sessional lecturer at another university in the Midlands, expressed fears over the safeguards put in place for in-person teaching. She said her classrooms either only have a tiny window at the far end or the windows “do not open more than an inch,” raising concerns that the virus will linger in the air due to the lack of ventilation.

“Yet we’re sent in with a face shield, as if that would protect us from aerosol transmission,” she said. “I am seriously terrified of going in, especially because we are hearing that students don’t report their symptoms in fear of being locked in [their accommodation].”

Helen, a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes university, said being forced to teach on campus felt like being “on the set of a disaster movie, like Outbreak, but without the full biohazard kit.” She added: “I feel depressed as ever more students are forced to drop out of face-to-face contact as a housemate is diagnosed with Covid. Once busy campus buildings feel like ghost towns.”

Many staff said that having to teach both in-person and online, as well as supporting anxious and isolated students, has increased their hours by

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South Korea’s university entrance exams were stressful enough. Then a pandemic arrived.

SEOUL —The biggest mission for Jo Yong-seok this week has been to keep coronavirus out of his Seoul home, where his 18-year-old son is studying 15 hours a day for the most important exam of his lifetime.

a group of people sitting at a table: South Korean students take their College Scholastic Ability Test at a school amid the coronavirus pandemic on Dec. 03, 2020 in Seoul.

© Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
South Korean students take their College Scholastic Ability Test at a school amid the coronavirus pandemic on Dec. 03, 2020 in Seoul.

On Thursday, nearly half a million students are taking the annual College Scholastic Ability Test. Known as suneung in Korean, it’s a multiple-choice standardized test similar to SATs, but with considerably higher stakes in education-obsessed South Korea.


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The eight-hour exam determines not only which university the younger Jo can attend, but also his future career opportunities, social standing and even marriage prospects. Students spend days and long evenings at expensive private cram schools preparing for the hypercompetitive exam.

Only this time, there was a pandemic.

[In South Korea, coronavirus gives kids a break from school pressures, but also traps them]

South Korea is struggling to contain a third wave of the coronavirus. The elder Jo, determined not to infect his son, has avoided seeing friends and gave up his favorite pastime of hiking. He even offered to forgo family meals and dine separately until the day of his son’s exam.

“My son has been studying all these years for this one day,” he said. “I can’t let the virus ruin it.”

In what she called a “desperate plea” a week before the exam, the country’s Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae urged the public to “entirely suspend everyday social activities” to tamp down infections.

a man standing in front of a window: A student wearing a face mask prays before the start of the annual college entrance examination in Seoul, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.

© Kim Hong-Ji/AP
A student wearing a face mask prays before the start of the annual college entrance examination in Seoul, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.

That day, South Korea reported 583 new covid-19 infections, the biggest one-day jump in eight months, with another 540 cases reported on the day of the exam.

Even during the pre-pandemic times, suneung proctors supervising the exams were banned from wearing perfume or high-heels, in case strong fragrances or the click-clack sound disturb students’ concentration.

This year, some will even be asked to don full protective gear to supervise the exam for at least 35 confirmed covid-19 patients and some 400 in quarantine. For this group, test papers are put in plastic bags and disinfected before grading.

“We pushed the beds out and brought the desks in,” said Yoon Jae-sik, spokesman for the Seoul Medical Center where five covid-19 patients are taking the test in a “negative pressure ward” designed to keep infectious germs from spreading outside.

“It’s a rather unusual setting but the patients are taking the exam in a calm manner,” he said.

At test venues, plastic dividers have been set up to separate desks, and students are required to wear masks at all times.

In previous years, suneung exam mornings kicked off with the sound of the younger students cheering for their seniors as they walked into the test center. That ritual has been banned

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Henry Ford College and Eastern Michigan University partner to offer scholarships to frontline workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

YPSILANTI, Mich., Dec. 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Eastern Michigan University and Henry Ford College (HFC) announced today a partnership to offer EMU scholarships to frontline workers who complete their HFC associate degree (Michigan Transfer Agreement recommended) and pursue a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University.

The partnership is an extension of HFC’s participation in the State of Michigan and Governor Whitmer’s “Futures for Frontliners” scholarship program, which pays for frontline workers to earn a tuition-free degree from a local community college. The application period for that program closes December 31.

“This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of brave men and women who have been serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s good news for our economy,” said Governor Whitmer. “From the beginning, creating paths to prosperity for more Michiganders has been a top priority for my administration. I’m proud that our state has developed a way to give back to the Michiganders who have been working around the clock to protect us, and I am grateful for this partnership between Henry Ford College and Eastern Michigan University to help more people get on a path to opportunity.”

The partnership is also a natural fit given EMU and HFC’s strong, long standing relationship and more than 40 articulation agreements currently in place, including a recently established pathway for students who have earned an associate nursing degree at Henry Ford College to transfer their credits to Eastern.

“Our frontline workers put themselves at risk to serve Michigan citizens during a pandemic. Now we are putting them at the forefront by supporting their futures,” said HFC President Russ Kavalhuna. “This new partnership between Henry Ford College and Eastern Michigan University is an exciting opportunity for Frontliners to extend their education even further. It will maximize their investment in themselves as they seek new or advanced careers.”

EMU has over 150 articulation agreements with Michigan community colleges, the most of any university in the state.

Eastern Michigan will offer the following scholarship opportunities through the partnership:

  1. HFC Frontliners graduates who enroll at EMU and are Pell eligible will receive an EMU Frontliner Scholarship to cover their remaining tuition balance.  A Pell Grant plus the EMU Frontliner Scholarship = Free Tuition.  The scholarship will cover 12 credits of tuition for five consecutive semesters of enrollment at EMU.
  2. HFC Frontliners graduates who enroll at EMU and are not Pell eligible will receive an EMU Frontliner scholarship of $5,000 that will be split into increments of $1,250 for each of four consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment at 12 or more credit hours per semester.

Michigan’s frontline workers have worked tirelessly around the clock for months to maintain essential services and to keep our communities safe,” said Eastern Michigan University President James Smith. “This new scholarship initiative is an extension of the excellent collaboration we have had with Henry Ford College for many years and provides a new opportunity to reward frontline workers by

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California is failing to provide free and equal education to all during pandemic, suit alleges

The state of California has failed during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a free and equal education to all students, violating the state Constitution and discriminating against Black, Latino and low-income families, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

a man driving a car: The mother of a student at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood collects books from her vehicle. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

© Provided by The LA Times
The mother of a student at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood collects books from her vehicle. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

These children have been left behind during months of distance learning, lacking access to digital tools as well as badly needed academic and social-emotional supports, according to the lawsuit filed by the Public Counsel on behalf of California students, parents and several community organizations.

The suit also alleges that students have been harmed by schools that fail to meet required minimum instructional times and to provide adequate training and support to teachers.

“The State’s abdication of responsibility and insufficient response to the challenges of remote learning have denied Plaintiffs the basic educational equality guaranteed to them by the California Constitution,” the complaint said. “Because the State’s pandemic response compels families to use their homes as classrooms, the State’s constitutional obligations expand into the home.”

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, names as defendants the state, Department of Education, Board of Education and state Supt. of Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Jesse Melgar, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement: “Throughout the pandemic this administration has taken important actions to protect student learning while also taking necessary steps to protect public health. We will defend our position in court.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said the department had not reviewed the lawsuit and could not comment. A spokeswoman for the state board deferred to the governor’s office.

Angela J., a plaintiff named in the complaint and a parent of three elementary-age children in the Oakland Unified School District, said that her twins, who were in the second grade last year, received live instruction with a teacher only twice from the time when schools closed in mid-March to the end of the school year. The students weren’t assigned packets or other materials to make up for the lost time.

“The teacher totally dropped the ball,” Angela J. said in an interview. (The lawsuit named the parent and student plaintiffs with pseudonyms to protect their privacy.)

When she finally reached the teacher after repeated phone calls and messages, the teacher said that because some students weren’t able to get online for remote learning, she had canceled classes for all students.

Angela J.’s children struggled to learn place values and multiplication, and their difficulties have persisted into the fall. Now in the third grade, they receive only 75 minutes of live instruction daily — well below the 230 instructional minutes required for students in grade 1 through 3 during the pandemic — and are left on their own to complete work off a checklist. The teacher has not provided any supplies or materials, according to the complaint.

“There’s no schedule, no

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India to launch Shukrayaan Venus mission in 2024 after pandemic delays: reports

India plans to launch a new orbiter to Venus in 2024, a year later than planned, according to media reports.

A view of Venus from NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft based on data captured in 1974.India is now planning to launch its own Venus orbiter in 2024.

© Provided by Space
A view of Venus from NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft based on data captured in 1974.India is now planning to launch its own Venus orbiter in 2024.

The Shukrayaan orbiter will be the first mission to Venus by the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) and will study the planet for four years, according to SpaceNews, which cited a presentation by an ISRO research scientist at a NASA-chartered committee Nov. 10. 


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ISRO has been soliciting ideas for instruments for a Venus-based mission since at least 2018, according to its website. At the planetary science committee, ISRO’s T. Maria Antonita presented more information about Shukrayaan during a discussion about NASA’s new 10-year plan for planetary science, SpaceNews reported.

Related: India looks beyond the moon to Mars, Venus and astronaut missions

“ISRO was aiming for a mid-2023 launch when it released its call for instruments in 2018, but Antonita told members of the National Academies’ decadal survey planning committee last week that pandemic-related delays have pushed Shukrayaan’s target launch date to December 2024,” SpaceNews stated in a Nov. 19 report. 

A backup launch opportunity is available when Venus and Earth are next aligned in mid-2026, in such a way to minimize spacecraft fuel use during the planetary transit, Antonita added.

Shukrayaan is set to launch on India’s GSLV Mk II rocket, but it may go on the more powerful GSLV Mk III rocket to carry more instruments or fuel, Antonita told the committee. ISRO will make a final decision in the next three to six months.

The spacecraft will carry several instruments to probe the Venusian environment. The flagship instrument will be a synthetic aperture radar to examine the Venusian surface, which is shrouded by thick clouds that make it impossible to glimpse the surface in visible light. An earlier version flew on the Indian Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft now orbiting the moon, Space News reported.

Another instrument will be a Swedish-Indian collaboration known as the Venusian Neutrals Analyzer, which will examine how charged particles from the sun interact with the atmosphere of Venus, according to The Economic Times. An earlier generation of this instrument launched on the Indian Chandrayaan-1 moon mission of 2008-09, studying how the sun’s particles affect a world with a far more tenuous atmosphere.

Shukrayaan will also bring an instrument to Venus to examine the planet’s atmosphere in infrared, ultraviolet and submillimeter wavelengths, Antonita said. Earlier in 2020, scientists announced the possible detection of phosphine —  a life-friendly element —  in Venus’ atmosphere, although many in the science community remain skeptical of the findings. 

In September, the French space agency (CNES) announced it would also fly an instrument on Shukrayaan. The Venus Infrared Atmospheric Gases Linker (VIRAL) is a collaboration with Russian federal space agency Roscosmos. Antonita added that other instruments have been shortlisted and that India plans to fly an instrument from Germany.

Dozens of

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Spring semester classes will remain virtual at Huston-Tillotson University due to coronavirus pandemic

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Citing ongoing health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, classes for the upcoming spring semester will remain virtual for students at Huston-Tillotston University in Austin.

The university’s president and CEO, Colette Pierce Burnette, made that announcement Monday in a letter sent to the school community. She wrote that the university based its decision on scientific advice about the expected surge in cases and deaths as well as the anticipated release of a vaccine for the general public next year.

“The safety and health of the entire campus community remain paramount as our top priority,” Pierce Brunette wrote. “Please understand that the decision to be fully online was by no means an easy one. Unfortunately, the key factors leading to our decision for the fall term are still prevalent, and in some cases, even more daunting. Continuing with fully online teaching and learning is the best decision for our campus.”

She reminded students about the online support services that remain available to them during the next semester, including one-on-one virtual tutoring and emergency grants.

Pierce Burnette also shared Huston-Tillotson University will soon provide what she called a “persistence grant” to registered students. She said this will help them with “costs of obtaining an education during such a tumultuous time.” More information will be released later this week, she wrote.

Huston-Tillotson Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Wayne Knox said his team was monitoring the effects of the pandemic is having on Black and brown communities, in particular. Seeing a continued increase in cases, plus a vaccine forecasted to be distributed to the general public in the spring, at best, the decision was made to go fully virtual.

“We just did not feel comfortable running the risk of having a surge here on campus,” Knox said.

“Continuing with teaching and learning virtually for the spring semester is a crucial step in keeping us healthy, stopping the spread, and defeating the virus so we can all be together soon,” Pierce Burnette said in her letter. “Please remain vigilant in protecting yourselves and your loved ones from the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and maintain a safe distance.”

Huston-Tillotson junior English student Dymon Moore said she misses the camaraderie and fellowship with students on campus, but feels thankful the school is being proactive to minimize harmful risk of transmitting COVID-19 among the population.

“It shows that the school is taking the pandemic seriously. They are valuing their staff and faculty health. They are valuing their students health,” Moore said.

Knox said there may be a drop in enrollment, but he doesn’t believe it will be substantial. He said the University, which has held its spot in Austin for nearly a century and a half, isn’t going anywhere.

“With us being here for 145 years, we have weathered storms before. We will weather this one, as well,” Knox said.

Other local higher education institutions are announcing changes for the spring semester because of the ongoing pandemic.

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