West Virginia University is suspending in-person classes due to a spike in coronavirus cases, school officials announced.
Classes for undergrads at the university’s main campus in Morgantown are canceled Tuesday and will move online through Sept. 25. Graduate and professional courses will continue to be taught in person, however, as the shift to online instruction is only being made at WVU’s Morgantown campus, university officials said Monday.
The move comes in direct response to a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases among students on the Morgantown campus, as well as concerns over the likelihood of more infections following reports of rowdy parties held over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
“This pause in face-to-face undergraduate instruction will give us time to monitor the steady climbing cases of COVID-19,” Dr. Jeffrey Coben, associate vice president of health affairs and dean of the School of Public Health, said in a statement.
“There is increasing evidence that crowded indoor gatherings, such as those that occurred over the weekend, can serve as super-spreader events.”
The public university, which enrolls nearly 30,000 students across its campuses, announced Sunday that it suspended 29 members of a fraternity house amid “ongoing COVID-19 investigations” while promising additional sanctions to follow.
A Theta Chi fraternity member who tested positive for the virus and was then told to isolate attended a party at the frat house on Friday, university officials said. All of the fraternity members had been previously told to isolate themselves due to the positive cases or close contacts. The students are now banned from campus and cannot take online classes either.
“We know that these parties act as super spreaders,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said in a statement. “Their flagrant disregard for the health and safety of their classmates, our campus and the entire Morgantown community will not be tolerated.”
University officials are also investigating photos and videos purportedly taken at a large party hosted by another fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi.
“While we are aware that some students have made the wrong decision to attend house parties off-campus, we also know the majority have occurred at unaffiliated fraternity houses,” Farris said. “This should serve as a message to anyone else who thinks the rules don’t apply to them. They do, and we will hold you accountable.”
In-person classes in Morgantown are expected to resume on Sept. 28 if conditions allow. Farris, meanwhile, urged students who traveled home for Labor Day weekend to stay there if they have the materials they need to learn remotely.
“We have every intention of bringing our students back to campus to resume in-person classes, but that all depends on how our campus community responds in the coming days,” Farris said.
As of Tuesday, at least 11,575 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in West Virginia, including 247 deaths, state data shows.