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UNR will go online following fall break due to COVID-19 cases spiking on campus

By Jeri Davis

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New University of Nevada, Reno, President Brian Sandoval announced today that students will not return to campus following the fall break that traditionally takes place over Thanksgiving weekend. According to a statement from Sandoval, beginning on Monday, Nov. 30, all university “courses will be delivered remotely for the remainder of the semester.”

Students living in residence halls have also been asked not to return to campus following the break, “unless they have a hardship or extenuating circumstances and must remain in the residence halls.”

Prorated refunds on room and board, as well as parking, will be made.

The decision appears to be a surprise not just to students but also to most faculty and staff, who are advised in the statement that the “Provost’s Office will provide additional information early next week to faculty regarding this change. Tutoring, advising and other academic and support services will still be available to all students. More information on these services will be forthcoming through the Provost’s Office.” 

Figuring out how and who to allow on campus to continue important research is another thing to be determined in the coming weeks. This, according to the statement, will be done by schools’ deans and unit directors. 

The upcoming spring semester will also look different. The university has decided to begin the semester one week later than usual and cancel the mid-semester spring break. The hope is that this will allow the university to have students living in its dormitories again come spring.

University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval

“We now have a looming cold and flu season and holiday travel in which many of our students could be potentially traveling back and forth between campus and their family’s homes,” Sandoval said.“These are all variables that have the potential to cause further spread of the virus. We must continue to find ways to mitigate these risks so that you, our students, faculty and staff, can remain healthy.”

However, the statement did not simply cite the higher risk of disease spread following the Thanksgiving holiday. It also spoke to current disease trends—which in Washoe County have been largely driven by college-aged people—noting that in “the past few weeks, 1 in 9 active positive cases in Washoe County were associated with our University community, and the 18-24 age range continues to be the highest range of new cases.” 

The statement also said that as of Oct. 5, the COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 during a 30-day period in Washoe County is the highest in the state.

The statement from Sandoval ended with an expression of his shared disappointment for the changes: “I realize that these measures require a level of sacrifice for all of us. They are designed to reduce our community’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 by limiting holiday travel and further reducing our campus’ density over the final days of this semester. Losing spring break will be a disappointment to many. But an uninterrupted spring semester, coming on the heels of our adjusted end to the fall semester, gives us our best chance to ‘Protect the Pack.’

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