Citing “worsening virus conditions,” Penn State will delay the beginning of in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester until Feb. 15, the university announced Friday.
Under the new plan, the semester will begin on Jan. 19 with remote instruction at all campus locations. In-person classes are slated to begin on Feb. 15, but Penn State says that “could change based on health and safety factors and guidance from the state.”
Penn State President Eric Barron said in a release Friday that high COVID-19 prevalence rates nationally and statewide make in-person learning “not possible” right now.
“While we know this creates a number of challenges for our community, we are very concerned with the current outlook across the country and the commonwealth and believe this is the most responsible way to begin our semester,” Barron said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education this week urged colleges and universities to use virtual instruction to the “maximum extent feasible.” The state has recorded a total of 538,655 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday.
Penn State is strongly discouraging students from returning to campus before Feb. 15. The university says the decision will “allow many front-line healthcare workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and help protect these personnel both on and off our campuses.”
All Penn State students will be required to get tested prior to their arrival and within the first two weeks of their return to campus, as part of the university’s enhanced testing strategy for the spring semester. On demand testing for students and employees will continue. The university says it will increase its random surveillance testing to include at least 1.5-2% of on-campus population, which is up from the 1% goal in the fall.
Penn State’s Testing and Surveillance Center has been provisionally approved to perform COVID-19 diagnostic testing beginning in the spring. The university said that will make more testing available and yield results faster.