What to watch: Spring semester and COVID-19

By Jenna Thomas

Entering a five-week break from classes, students are packing up, heading home, and making holiday arrangements. This long vacation will give Cleveland State University time to update and reconsider their COVID-19 policies before beginning the spring semester in mid-January. 

There are many scenarios that could play out over the next five weeks that will determine what spring semester classes will look like. The Cauldron covered the university’s current plan here.

However, plenty can change in five weeks―especially through the holidays. One of the more significant indicators of a remote spring semester will be Governor Mike DeWine’s recommendations. When Cleveland State canceled classes for the first time, at the close of spring break 2020, Mike DeWine’s guidance was a deciding factor for Ohio universities. In March, DeWine and President Harlan Sands met to discuss options for CSU. 

“We have been in direct contact with Governor DeWine and applaud his leadership – his recommendations are important to us,” said President Sands.

When the pandemic first hit the United States, Governor DeWine led the nation in aggressive approaches to combating the virus. He recommended universities transition to remote learning when there were only three confirmed cases in Ohio. Now, we are seeing an average of 10,000 new cases every day. 

Governor DeWine will likely look at some of these key factors to help guide his recommendations: 

  1. Hospital capacity. This could be one of the biggest considerations for DeWine. Since significant upticks in the number of cases have elicited no substantial changes to safety protocols, there might come a time when hospitals cannot handle any more cases or even non-Covid patients. Right now, hospitals in Cuyahoga County are about 66% full. The flu will only put more stress on healthcare workers. 
  2. Hotspots & contact tracing. The impact of university students returning home on the COVID rates would help DeWine decide how to handle in-person colleges. Hotspots in areas like Cleveland, Columbus, Athens, Toledo, and other cities with colleges could also sway his recommendations.
  3. Daily case count. In early November, Governor DeWine warned Ohioans that if cases did not go down, then universities might need to be remote in January. At the time, single-day records were hit at 7,000 cases per day. Those numbers have only grown. It is unclear at what point the surge will prompt universities to close, but if cases continue to rise, then it will become more likely. 

Cleveland State’s COVID-19 response is an ever-changing strategy. Although there is a plan set for the spring semester, it is not set in stone, and these next few weeks could change everything.

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