UW extends ‘pause’ on plans to resume in-person classes

LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming will continue its campus pause, which was initiated last Wednesday due to positive COVID-19 tests by students, until Sept. 14, the school announced Wednesday in a news release.

A pause, which is triggered by five or more positive tests of symptomatic students or staff in a given day, requires nearly all university functions, including classes, to occur remotely for at least five business days. During that time, students are asked to shelter in place and only interact with those on their floor/in their residences, whether it be in dormitories or off-campus.

All UW students and staff were tested for COVID-19 before classes began, and those who are on campus now are currently being tested at least once per week, a school spokesman said.

Per the news release, the extension of the pause “is necessary for UW leaders to receive and analyze results from its on-campus testing program and external providers to understand the level of COVID-19 transmission over the Labor Day weekend.”

The university has reported 20 new cases following the long weekend.

The pause process is written into UW’s COVID contingency plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in August. Per the plan, there are three possible outcomes at the pause’s conclusion:

— University business continues, and phased return goes forward

— Students remain on campus, but classes take place online (pause extension)

— Students are not permitted to live on campus and classes take place online

“While we continue to detect new cases — which is worrisome — the pause has enabled us to effectively slow the spread of the virus,” UW President Ed Seidel said in a statement. “That provides some encouragement for our ability to resume our fall return plan, but only if what happened over Labor Day weekend does not result in a spike in cases.”

The semester began Aug. 24, with nearly all classes taking place online in what is termed as Phase 1. Phase 2 was set to begin Sept. 7 and run through Sept. 25, with first-year seminars and pharmacy school classes starting in person during that time frame. Phase 3, when all students are allowed back on campus with eight weeks of in-person learning, was scheduled to begin Sept. 28. Phase 4, which was scheduled to begin in late November and continue through the end of the semester would return to online-only classes.

There are around 1,000 students currently living on campus, according to UW. Phase 2 would place an additional 3,500 students on campus.

UW has 70 active COVID-19 cases, including 67 students, per the university’s dashboard. There are also 130 people currently quarantined due to possible exposure. UW has recorded 141 total cases among students and staff overall.

“So far, the on-campus experience appears to be relatively safe, and we appreciate the adherence of our students in the residence halls to the pause restrictions,” Seidel said. “Unfortunately, it appears that some of our students off campus are not doing the same, based upon community observations and the relatively high number of cases among those students. If that situation doesn’t change, it seriously jeopardizes the opportunity to implement our full phased return plan for the fall semester.”

Off-campus gatherings by students led to several new cases last week and 47 quarantines, according to UW. Students found to have participated in the gatherings will be indefinitely suspended and will also face conduct proceedings with the Dean of Students Office, which could result in further suspensions or dismissal from the school.