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Catawba, Livingstone not bringing students back until after the holidays

SALISBURY — Catawba College and Livingstone College are sending students home until late January and early February, respectively, as part of their plans to reduce the risk of campus transmission of COVID-19.

A number of other colleges and universities have made similar plans to not have students return to in-person classes for the rest of the semester amid predictions the COVID-19 pandemic would experience a resurgence in fall and winter. The semesters will continue into December, but all online.

Expert predictions have been true as the state has seen climbing infection rates for weeks. Gov. Roy Cooper announced tightening mask requirements on Monday, citing the worsening pandemic.

One concern causing the move all online for the remainder of the semester is whether there will be transmission during Thanksgiving and December holidays that could come back and spread on campus. Schools and colleges have found, with their protocols in place, spread on campus is limited and many positive tests are traced to outside events like family gatherings.

“They’ve been contracting it from going home on the weekends and getting exposed to a family member who has it,” said Catawba Dean of Students Jared Tice, adding campus is one of the safest places students can be if they follow protocols.

Livingstone Chief Operating Officer Anthony Davis said one of the college’s goals was to reduce travel once students arrived so it could create its own bubble.

“Once you send students home, you don’t know what protocols they have at home,” Davis said. “COVID-19 is invisible, so you don’t know when individuals contract it.”

Tice said if there are infections that result from the holidays, hopefully those households will have recovered by the time students come back to campus and not have to miss any time as a result.

At a Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education meeting last week, Superintendent Lynn Moody also expressed concerns about possible infections resulting from Thanksgiving gatherings.

“Of course the spikes and the surges give us pause, but that’s why you monitor and manage the best you can,” Davis said.

Both colleges are encouraging students to be safe.

“The worry is the fatigue, at the end of the day,” Tice said, adding people are fatigued by the need to be continuously vigilant.

Livingstone offered to test students before they returned home and plans to test everyone on campus again when they return, as it has done several times this semester. Tice said Catawba is considering college-wide testing when students return as well.

Tice said Catawba has asked students to update the college on their COVID-19 status if they are infected while away. Davis said Livingstone made no plans to monitor students during the break.

Catawba has had a slight uptick in cases during the previous few weeks, but Tice said the numbers have been manageable.

Classes will restart at Catawba on Jan. 25. Livingstone, which delayed starting classes until September, will begin the second semester on Feb. 8.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College moved more than 90% of its classes online this semester and will continue with the same format going into next semester.

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