CHICAGO (CBS) — Northern Illinois University is switching to remote learning for all undergraduates, after more than 120 students have been diagnosed with COVID-19, many of whom attended parties where people were not wearing masks or observing social distancing.
“Effective immediately, we are temporarily moving undergraduate courses online and expect all students who reside on campus, and undergraduates who live in DeKalb County, to limit in-person activities and interactions until Monday, Sept. 28,” NIU president Lisa C. Freeman wrote in a letter to students.
According to the university, more than 120 students are currently positive for the novel coronavirus, and others are in quarantine after being exposed to positive cases, or while awaiting test results.
“Through contact tracing, we have determined that the vast majority of student cases involve those who live off-campus or who attended off-campus gatherings where masks were not worn and physical distancing was not respected. We are also aware that some students are not fully cooperating with health officials and following guidelines on reporting symptoms and potential exposure,” Freeman wrote. “These careless and unacceptable activities have led to a substantial increase in the overall positivity rate for DeKalb County and put our entire community at risk.”
School officials said they are working with the DeKalb County Health Department to take steps to limit activities at the school to reduce the spread of the virus.
“Effective immediately, the university expects all students who live on campus, and undergraduates who reside in DeKalb or the county, to strictly limit their in-person interactions to only those that are essential. This includes obtaining meals and groceries, seeking medical care or attending work. It also means absolutely avoiding gatherings or parties, indoors or out,” Freeman wrote. “I know that this is very frustrating, especially for those students who have been diligently following the rules and prioritizing the health of fellow Huskies. By taking bold measures and limiting exposure now, however, we have the best opportunity to stop these trends.”
All undergraduate classes at NIU will be delivered remotely between Sept. 14 and Sept 25. The university said few exceptions could be granted at the request of faculty. Students should check their Blackboard course site after noon on Sunday, Sept. 13, to see if their course is among the exceptions.
The school plans to resume in-person classes on Sept. 28.
Meantime, on-campus students will be required to stay in their residence hall as much as possible over the next two weeks. Students will be allowed to leave dorms to:
- Pick up meals from dining facilities or the Holmes Student Center
- Pick up to-go meals from local establishments
- Pick up deliveries from restaurants and groceries
- Spend time outdoors doing individual activities while masked
- Use university Wi-Fi, computer labs, or the Founders Memorial Library
- Utilize the Student Health Center and Counseling and Consultation Services
- Take care of essential errands, such as groceries, medical appointments, or to get a flu shot
- Attend work on- or off-campus, after getting approval from supervisors
- Participate in off-campus internships or clinicals organized by a student’s college
- Manage child care responsibilities
Off-campus students also have been advised to stay in their apartments, houses, fraternities, or sororities, and follow the same guidance for limiting activities as on-campus students.
All university events for the next two weeks have been canceled, except for virtual events. Student organizations are not allowed to meet during that time.
All student gatherings of any size, both on campus and off campus, also are prohibited for the next two weeks, and guests are barred from campus.
“I cannot emphasize enough that the points of origin for the spread of COVID-19 at NIU are parties and gatherings, especially ones where participants have failed to wear masks and physically distance. It is because of these activities that we now must take this two-week pause,” Freeman wrote.
The switch to remote learning at NIU comes just two days after all students at Bradley University in Peoria were placed under a two-week quarantine, and classes were moved online, due to an uptick in COVID-19.