Normally this time of year, thousands of college students are descending on Worcester to resume classes for the spring semester.
But in the midst of the current coronavirus surge, health officials are urging a delay.
“Coming back now when we’re in the teeth of the surge, I think the viral load in the community’s much higher,” said Worcester Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh.
Worcester State University recently made the decision to push back the start of its spring semester to Feb. 1.
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“What was driving the decision was clearly the projected COVID rates in the commonwealth,” Worcester State University President Barry Maloney said.
Joining Worcester State University, WPI is delaying the start of classes until Jan. 28, while having students “stay in place” the first two weeks.
And Assumption University is starting remotely Jan. 25 for two weeks, with testing and quarantining before students can come to class in-person.
“What we’re really trying to do is to create the bubble so that we remain safe on campus but, most importantly, that we also keep the Worcester community safe,” Assumption University President Francesco Cesareo said.
Holy Cross and Clark University had scheduled a late start to the spring semester before the school year even began.
Clark University Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Jack Foley said, “It would not be advisable for an institution to bring students back that would contribute to a real burden in the community relative to health care capacity or the real rise in the virus.”
Clark isn’t scheduled to begin in-person classes until Feb. 22, but even that will be dependent on COVID-19 case numbers.
“And we will be able to see how it might be going at other schools that are opening up earlier, and what their experiences are like as well,” Foley said.
The city’s colleges and universities say they will continue to monitor the case levels throughout the area and adjust their plans as needed.