Dave Mistich Published

WVU Moves Undergrad Classes Online As Mon County Sees Uptick In Coronavirus Cases

Woodburn Hall, WVU

Amid an uptick in cases in Monongalia County, West Virginia University has announced they are moving undergraduate classes online for the next few weeks. The decision by the state’s flagship university follows moves by other higher education institutions to move classes online as coronavirus cases sharply increase in the first weeks of a new semester nationwide.

According to an email from the university, all undergraduate courses in Morgantown will go online beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9, with the exception of those Health Sciences courses with students already engaged in clinical rotation. Classes will be held online through Friday, Sept. 25. Graduate and professional courses will continue to be offered in person, the announcement said. 


University officials say the change in course delivery is in direct response to a recent increase in positive cases in students on the Morgantown campus, as well as concern for other potential spread following several reports of parties held this holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine.


WVU placed 29 students on immediate interim suspension Sunday, Sept. 6 amid ongoing investigations into student conduct. Other sanctions against students had previously been brought forth for throwing large parties and otherwise not following public health guidelines.

“This pause in face-to-face undergraduate instruction will give us time to monitor the steadily climbing cases of COVID-19,” Dr. Jeffrey Coben, associate vice president of health affairs and dean of the School of Public Health, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “There is increasing evidence that crowded indoor gatherings, such as those that occurred over the weekend, can serve as super-spreader events.”


As colleges and universities reopened for in-person classes around the nation, many have struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 


In mid-August, and just days into its semester, the University of North Carolina moved its classes online after an outbreak. Just eight days after classes started, the University of Notre Dame saw an explosion in cases. This weekend, the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced it was directing nine fraternities and sororities on its campus to quarantine after many in those groups tested positive.


Many around Morgantown feared the community would look like other university towns struggling with the virus once WVU returned for the fall semester. Such fears seem to be realized, according to data from state health officials. 

Monongalia County, where WVU’s main campus sits in Morgantown, is currently the state’s hardest hit county. According to data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the number of active cases in the area has more than doubled in less than a week. The county was seeing 149 active cases of the virus as of Monday, August 31. By Sunday, Sept. 6 that number had grown to 348.


“If any students traveled home for the holiday weekend and have their materials to learn remotely, we ask those students to remain where they are right now,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said. “However, we are strongly advising students who did not travel over the weekend to remain in Morgantown during this time. We have every intention of bringing our students back to campus to resume in-person classes, but that all depends on how our campus community responds in the coming days.”

Students from the Morgantown campus continue to test positive for the virus, according to data from the university. 

Gov. Jim Justice has kept a close eye on Monongalia County in recent weeks. The governor initially shut down bars in mid-July before extending that order through August 31. Bars were allowed to reopen for only two days before Justice — citing long lines of young people not socially distancing or wearing masks waiting to get into a downtown bar — indefinitely closed bars in the county.

With Monongalia County being deemed “red” by state health and education officials, K-12 classes are set to go online beginning Tuesday. Data from state health officials show the county was reporting a 14-day rolling average of 33.41 daily cases.