With West Virginia Seeing Coronavirus Spike, WVU Campuses Move Classes Online

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As West Virginia and the entire nation continues to see sharp increases in the spread of the coronavirus, officials at West Virginia University have announced undergraduate classes will move online for the remainder of the fall semester.

While university officials had already planned on holding the last week of classes and finals online after Thanksgiving, the expedited move to online learning comes as the state continues to break records in the number of newly recorded cases of the virus.

In a Tuesday news release, university officials said the change in learning format will begin Nov. 23 and 24 and apply to all of WVU’s campuses, including Morgantown, Keyser and Beckley.

Officials at WVU said health sciences programs will be excluded from the switch to online coursework. Faculty who teach graduate and professional-level courses may determine whether to teach classes in person on Monday and Tuesday. Residence halls and dining facilities will operate on a normal schedule through the holiday break.

“Now more than ever, we ask our students, faculty and staff to stay home and away from those outside of your immediate bubble as much as possible,” said Dr. Carmen Burrell, medical director of WVU Medicine Student Health and Urgent Care. “If you have to be out or travel, follow the safety guidance that has been put in place to protect you and others, especially our more vulnerable residents.”

The rising number of coronavirus cases in West Virginia has shattered records in recent weeks. It took the state 42 days to record 1,000 cases once the first case was announced. Now, 1,000 new cases are reported roughly every 36 hours.

In the past week, 202 cases of the virus have been identified in Monongalia County, which is home to WVU’s Morgantown campus. An additional 64 cases have been listed as probable.

As of Tuesday, 598 West Virginians have died from the virus and more than 10,000 cases are considered active. In total, the state has recorded more than 35,000 cases.

With hospitalizations at a high mark and other key metrics — including ICU usage and the number of patients on ventilators — also breaking new records, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday a string of executive orders, including a stricter mandate on wearing a mask while indoors.

In mid-September, Justice announced that all students at WVU diagnosed with the virus would be counted as a single case for data analysis purposes. Bars in Morgantown had been shuttered for months because of outbreaks of the virus, but were allowed to reopen in mid-October at half capacity.

WVU initially moved in-person classes online in March ahead of spring break. Students at the university finished out the spring semester online.