Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.
2 major universities announced this week that they will offer COVID-19 vaccinations on campus for students.
Indiana's Butler University and North Carolina's Duke University plan to vaccinate students within the next few weeks.
Butler announced Monday that school administrators will be offering the first dose of a vaccine for students from April 7 through April 9. The second dose will be administered on May 4 through May 6. Students need to register via an email sent to them on Thursday from the Indiana Department of Health, with the first 48 hours reserved for students only to register. After that time, registration will open to faculty and staff.
Senior Duke officials said in a letter to students that vaccine eligibility would be opened to them, starting on Wednesday. "Duke Health expects to obtain sufficient supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the State to offer all currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate/professional students in the Durham area the option to get vaccinated in the next several weeks," the letter reads. All students were invited to schedule an appointment, starting on Thursday, via email. However, the letter says, it may take "several weeks" to actually schedule an appointment "due to uncertainties in the supply chain."
Students are still encouraged to look elsewhere for the vaccine, though. "We also encourage you to explore all options for vaccination, such as local public health departments, pharmacies, and other providers that may have additional supply," the letter says. The letter also referenced the school's stay-in-place order, which was prompted by rising cases on campus. "Last week’s stay-in-place directive was a stark reminder that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic," the letter reads. "Thank you for all you continue to do this semester to keep yourselves and each other safe so we can finish out the semester strong."
Twenty-five Duke students and 18 faculty and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 between March 22 and March 28, the school reported Tuesday. North Carolina reported 2,027 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to state health department data.
Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells Yahoo Life that it's "critically important" to vaccinate students. "Even though college students are less likely to have a bad outcome if infected with the new coronavirus, they’re still not bulletproof," he says. "Vaccination will prevent potential complications."
Russo also points out that college students are more likely to have no symptoms of COVID-19 or to have minor symptoms. "The more of these people that we get vaccinated, the less likely they are to transmit the disease to others," he says.
"It's absolutely a great idea to vaccinate college students," Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Life. "It's hard for people to make a vaccine appointment — you have to keep trying every day, many times a day, to get one," he points out. "When you make it accessible in college, you're going to increase immunization rates greatly. Many students will lose interest otherwise."
Schools are working hard to combat post-spring-break COVID-19 outbreaks
Schools across the country are taking extra precautions to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools after spring break. In New Jersey's Ocean City School District, superintendent Kathleen W. Taylor urged families in a letter to "continue following, as a family, those public health precautions designed to protect you and others from COVID-19." The district plans to transition students in preschool and grades seven through 12 back to five days of in-person learning on April 12. "We want to ensure we can move forward with those plans and our schools remain open for all students choosing the in-person option," Taylor wrote, before asking families to "finish the school year strong."
In Michigan, which has seen a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases this month, the state's Department of Health is hosting free coronavirus testing sites after spring break at local schools. "Students and families traveling across Michigan, to other states, or out of the country risk bringing COVID-19 with them," an announcement from state officials reads. "This in turn may fuel outbreaks within their households and the communities they visit, and reintroducing COVID-19 to the community when they return." Detroit Public Schools also plan to do a week of remote learning as a precaution after spring break. "This is to allow employees and students a week of social isolation after Spring Break to limit the spread of COVID-19," an announcement to students and staff reads. "Employees returning to buildings will receive a negative test before in-person learning is started."
New Jersey's Linden School District has also planned a remote week after spring break. Superintendent Marnie Hazelton told Education Week that many teachers and staff wanted to visit family during the break, which would require a 14-day quarantine afterward. "We're just alleviating anxiety to allow our hardworking teachers and support staff to enjoy, for the first time in almost a year, a nice, quiet spring break," she said, adding, "we're not advocating they go to Florida or some of these hot spots."
Ganjian says the precautions are a good idea. "While we recommend in-person learning, we do see that vacations cause outbreaks," he says. "Hopefully cases after spring break won't go up that high, but it is a concern."
Georgia is waiving school performance ratings this year
Georgia education officials announced on Tuesday that the state received a waiver of accountability requirements from the U.S. Department of Education (USED). That means the state won't have to produce a College and Career Ready Performance Index summary for the state, school districts and schools. The test specifically measures how well the state's schools and districts are preparing students for the next educational level
However, the state will still need to conduct assessments for the school year, and students will still be required to take the Georgia Milestones exams, comprehensive tests for grades three through high school.
"I commend USED for approving Georgia's waiver for accountability requirements," Governor Brian P. Kemp said in a statement. “Our students and teachers have worked incredibly hard during this unprecedented time and school systems should not be punished for an unexpected school year. Georgia is a state that continues to put our students and teachers first. We will be using test scores as a way to help our students—not as a punitive measure."
Ganjian says it's good that students are still being measured on their individual progress. "School testing encourages students to want to perform," he says. "Otherwise, kids might lose interest and self-motivation."
Syracuse University is seeing an outbreak in COVID-19 cases due to off-campus parties
Officials at Syracuse University issued a stern warning to students, families, faculty and staff on Wednesday after the school reported 44 new COVID-19 infections in a day.
J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, said in a letter that there has been a "very significant and troubling increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases" among students. "Based on case investigations and timing, the data strongly suggests that the current surge of infection largely stems from off-campus parties and gatherings that occurred last weekend," Haynie wrote.
"Our public health professionals are extremely concerned with the current situation," he continued. "Yesterday alone, we moved more students into isolation housing than was typical of an entire week during the fall semester."
If cases continue at this pace, the school will have "no choice" but to take "additional and likely dramatic preventative actions" to stop the spread of the virus. "I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is that all members of our community act now to undercut the current outbreak," he said, before encouraging students and staff to wear masks, practice social distancing, avoid gathering in large groups and avoid travel. Haynie also urged students and staff to get vaccinated and to sign up for vaccination waitlists "ASAP."
"The fact is that COVID remains a real and present risk to our staff, faculty and students," Haynie wrote. "Please do everything in your power to keep yourself, those around you and the broader Central New York community safe and healthy."
Russo says the outbreak is a reminder that the pandemic is "not over yet."
"We still need four to six weeks of patience before we can get a crucial number of people vaccinated," he says. "Until we get our cases down to zero or close to zero, it won't be safe to go to parties."
On Friday, New York reported 7,787 new COVID-19 cases.
Read more from Yahoo Life
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.