Northeast governors urge colleges to go remote after Thanksgiving, provide exit testing to all students

Emily Brindley, Hartford Courant

Connecticut Gov Ned Lamont and six other Northeast governors are urging colleges and universities to provide students with exit testing as they leave campuses for the holidays, and to pivot to remote learning after Thanksgiving to cut down on travel and potential coronavirus spread.

Governors from seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — worked in coordination to craft the guidance, which is not a mandate but a request.

“Colleges and universities have to do their part by testing all students before they leave, informing them about quarantine rules, and keeping classes online between Thanksgiving and Winter Break,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, in a written statement. “We beat back the COVID beast in the spring, and by working together we can do it once again this winter.”

The request comes as COVID-19 surges again, both in the Northeast and across the country. In Connecticut, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise, and Lamont has acknowledged for several weeks that the state is in the midst of a second wave. Nationwide, states are setting record-high case numbers and, in some areas, hospitals are reaching capacity.

Experts have warned that holiday gatherings could worsen the already surging pandemic. Lamont, along with other governors, has continually urged residents to avoid gathering with people outside of their household — and he has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people, including for the holidays.

In anticipation of rising numbers, some universities including UConn had already planned to transition to remote learning between the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

Carl Lejuez, UConn provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, previously told The Courant that students automatically break their “bubbles” when they travel home for the holidays — which would make it challenging to keep students safe from the virus.

“There’s just so many moving parts,” Lejuez said. “I think that’s why you’ve seen so many schools move to [remote learning] after Thanksgiving.”

The governors are asking residential colleges and universities to test all students who plan to leave campus for Thanksgiving, and then to isolate any student who does test positive.

Lamont said on Monday that students should also get tested for COVID-19 when they arrive in their home state. In Connecticut, nearly all returning students will also be subject to the state’s travel advisory, which requires incoming travelers to quarantine for 14 days or until they provide a negative test result to the state. That advisory applies to all other states besides Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

“I don’t want people just getting on that plane, going home, potentially putting their families at risk and their friends at risk,” Lamont said last week. “I think we’re going to be reaching out to all the universities to reinforce this with the students.”

Emily Brindley can be reached at ebrindley@courant.com.

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