A growing number of universities say they won't hold classes in December, predicting a second coronavirus wave

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  • A growing number of universities say they will shift their fall semester schedules to end classes before the month of December.

  • Some have announced plans to return to campus for in-person instruction in the fall, despite health experts warning about a potential second US outbreak later this year.

  • Researchers have warned of a second wave — with an even higher peak — in the fall and winter months.

  • As of Wednesday, all 50 states have begun to relax state-ordered social distancing initiatives.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

purdue university west lafayette

The Purdue University campus.

Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

A growing number of universities have announced they will not offer in-person instruction during the month of December as health experts have warned of a second and potentially more serious COVID-19 outbreak in the winter.

As The Hill first reported Wednesday, Notre Dame University, the University of South Carolina, Purdue University in Indiana, and Marquette University in Wisconsin have all said they will open in the fall but will modify their schedules to avoid classes during the month of December.

According to the report, the schools will end classes for the first semester before Thanksgiving on November 26.

"Our best current modeling predicts a spike in cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of December, which also will likely coincide with traditional flu season," University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen said, also announcing an October fall break had been canceled.

USC will offer two days of online instruction at the end of the semester before offering final exams online. Marquette University Provost Kimo Ah Yun said the college's spring 2021 semester would begin a week later than is typical, and that it plans to hold in-person examinations next May, according to the report.

A second wave

As Business Insider previously reported, researchers from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) have suggested there are three ways the COVID-19 pandemic could evolve moving forward. The most likely scenario, they found, is that a second, larger wave of infections would occur in the fall and winter months.

The predicted second wave, which would come with a higher peak than the first wave, would require states to reinstate mitigation measures like lockdowns, according to CIDRAP. As of Wednesday, all 50 states have begun to relax their state-mandated social distancing orders.


possible pandemic wave scenario 2

A Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy prediction of COVID-19 cases in the US.

Ruobing Su/Business Insider

A number of universities have already announced plans to reopen in the fall, though the nation's Top 25 higher-ed institutions have varying plans. Plans to reopen to in-person classes typically hinge on their initiatives to offer widespread testing and isolating individuals who test positive for COVID-19. 

New York University this week announced in-person classes would be in session this fall. The university said that international students could continue their studies at the nearest satellite campus to avoid returning to the US. In a Monday email, Provost Katherine Fleming said the university planned to offer coronavirus and antibody tests, reduce housing density, and offer more remote courses. 

Universities are likely trying to avoid a repeat of what happened in the spring when many of them abruptly forced students off-campus and moved instruction online in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

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