COVID-19 roundup: more colleges go virtual; the virus plays a role in another student death

As some colleges declare a form of victory over the coronavirus this fall, others continue to walk a tightrope in trying to finish the semester on campus.

Last Friday, Lebanon Valley College announced that “to manage the situation before an outbreak occurs on campus,” the Pennsylvania institution would end on-campus instruction and residency this weekend and finish the term remotely. “Though I wish we could have made it to the Thanksgiving break, winding down now — just two weeks ahead of schedule — is the most prudent thing to do,” President James M. McLaren wrote.

Saint Michael’s College of Vermont made a similar call Monday. It had announced a shift to remote learning on Oct. 22, but President Lorraine Sterritt said that as wider testing showed the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to tick up, college and local officials had decided to end in-person instruction and all in-person activities for the remainder of the fall term.

Other colleges continue to embrace short-term changes to try to avoid pulling the plug on the term altogether.

Assumption University, in Massachusetts, said last Friday that it would lock down the campus through this Friday, including holding all classes remotely, and that at the end of the week it would “reassess the situation with the Worcester Department of Public Health with the goal of resuming in-person classes.”

Wells College said Tuesday that because of a positive test, it would suspend all in-person activity through Sunday, including classes and athletics. “Again, to clarify, the campus is not fully closing as it did last spring — rather, we are pausing all in-person activities for the week,” the statement said.

A student at Grace College, in Indiana, has died of a blot clot after contracting the coronavirus, the college announced Tuesday.

The college shared a statement from the local coroner that sought to play down the role of COVID-19 in the death of Bethany Nesbitt, who was 20 years old. Nesbitt died in her dorm room Saturday. The statement read, “After a complete investigation and autopsy, the cause of death has been ruled natural due to a pulmonary embolus that had not been previously detected. While COVID did play a role in contributing to the death, it was not caused by COVID.”

Nesbitt’s brother, Stephen, struck a different chord in a Twitter message Tuesday. He wrote, “The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism — the result of a blood clot — widely recognized as a common cause of death in COVID-19 patients.

A statement from the family added, “We speak out not to spread fear, but to encourage others to exercise enormous caution as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Please don’t assume that young people will not be impacted by this virus.”

The University of Wisconsin at Madison on Tuesday said that it would cancel its second consecutive football game because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. The team was scheduled to play Saturday against Purdue University.

Wisconsin officials said there were 27 positive cases in the Badger football program, including 21 positive tests since Saturday — 10 players and 11 staff members.

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