College in the Coronavirus Pandemic: No Fall Break and Home by Thanksgiving

College in the Coronavirus Pandemic: No Fall Break and Home by Thanksgiving

SACRAMENTO — As colleges make plans to bring students back to campus, alongside discussions of mask requirements and half-empty classrooms, one common strategy is emerging: Forgoing fall break and getting students home before Thanksgiving.

The University of South Carolina, Notre Dame, Rice and Creighton are among the schools that have said they will find ways to shorten the fall semester, in an attempt to avoid a “second wave” of coronavirus infections expected to emerge in late fall.

Built into their calculations, university officials say, are epidemiological assumptions that reducing travel will help students avoid contracting and spreading the virus, and that any easing of the pandemic this summer will end with the return of flu season.

“We don’t know if the second wave will be weaker or stronger, but there’s a significant risk that this will resurge in the winter,” said Rice University’s president, David W. Leebron.

Rice, a private university in Houston, was among the first schools to adopt the strategy of a streamlined semester. It notified 7,000 students this month that the fall semester would not have the usual breaks, ending at Thanksgiving instead of around Christmas.

In making that decision, Mr. Leebron said he drew on guidance issued by federal disease experts, pandemic modeling from other universities, Rice’s own infectious diseases faculty and the school’s “robust crisis management structure” — a result of too many Texas hurricane seasons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned almost from the outset of the pandemic that the United States can expect to be hit by multiple waves of infections until the development of a vaccine, a process that can take at least 18 to 24 months.

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