Colleges Are Already Moving to Cancel Spring Break to 'Mitigate the Possible Risks' During Pandemic
Several colleges and universities across the country are removing spring break from their academic calendars amid concerns that it would cause a spike in coronavirus cases.
On Thursday, the University of Michigan became the latest school to cancel the annual vacation period, historically marked with travel and partying among college students.
According to a letter penned by University of Michigan Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso to request the change, the move would "mitigate the possible risks associated with campus community members who may have traveled during the middle of the semester," ABC News reported.
The institution joined a handful of other Big Ten universities who have already scrapped the spring vacation, including University of Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University, Ohio State University and the University of Iowa.
Other universities also taking the precautionary measure are the University of Tennessee, the University of Florida, Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Kansas State University, the University of Kentucky, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and Carnegie Mellon University, according to ABC.
In their notice, University of Kentucky school officials noted their concern over spread of the virus on campus, writing that "the revised calendar creates a condensed semester in which students remain engaged in coursework on campus, rather than potentially traveling to other regions and returning to Lexington, which would increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
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Baylor's Provost Nancy Brickhouse said that the school's decision to cancel spring break is to prevent "COVID-19 outbreaks like we saw across the country last Spring and progressing toward the successful completion of the Spring semester is our highest priority."
In March, many college spring breakers made headlines for crowding Florida beaches despite warnings over the virus and pleas for social distancing.
A recent study released by Ball State University and Vanderbilt University confirmed that the 2019 spring breakers contributed to the rapid spread of the virus earlier this year.
“We find that the increase in case growth rates peaked two weeks after students returned to campus,” explained Paul Niekamp, an economics professor in the Miller College of Business. "Consistent with secondary spread to more vulnerable populations, we find an increase in mortality growth rates that peaked four to five weeks after students returned.”
To make up for the lack of a spring break, some schools are adding several "break days" or "reading days" throughout the spring semester to allow students and faculty some needed recess.
Other schools have decided to simply tack on their spring break days to their winter break in a move to delay the start of the spring semester. Some medical experts warn to take extra caution around that time as flu season and COVID-19 line up.
"We could see rising COVID cases during flu season and some of that may depend on how effective we are at maintaining consistency in our prevention behaviors we know work," Dr. Jay Bhatt, a former chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association, told ABC in August.
"Increased indoor interaction and decreased humidity are potential factors that lead to a broad rise in respiratory illness," Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist, added. "The concern is that we have these rising epidemics at the same time posing both increased individual risk and a deepening strain on health care capacity."
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