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Off-campus “super-spreader” event linked to 125 virus cases at Monmouth University

An off-campus “super-spreader” event has led to 125 coronavirus cases at Monmouth University in New Jersey, the university’s president said in an open letter to students.

Through extensive contact tracing, the rise in cases was linked to a single event held about two weeks ago, Monmouth president Patrick Leahy wrote Friday. This event was held off-campus, although school officials did not specify what kind of event it was, only calling it a “social gathering.” 

Since August 24, Monmouth has reported over 319 coronavirus cases. According to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard, only 96 of those cases are considered active, while the other 223 account for recovered cases. 

The school has not yet determined whether fully remote learning will continue for the rest of the fall semester. In his open letter, Leahy emphasized how important testing and social distancing was to the status of the fall semester. 

“I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of compliance with Monmouth University COVID-19 protocols and State of New Jersey health and safety measures to effectively protect the Monmouth community,” Leahy wrote on Friday. “The future of our fall semester will rest, in large part, on the ability of everyone to follow these necessary protocols.”

These new cases are a part of New Jersey’s increase in weekly positive cases. According to Johns Hopkins University, the state had at least 469 new cases reported in the last seven days, bringing Jersey’s total case count to 214,097. 

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“Super-spreader” event linked to 125 virus cases at university

An off-campus “super-spreader” event has led to 125 coronavirus cases at Monmouth University in New Jersey, the university’s president said in an open letter to students.



a close up of a flower garden in front of a building: Monmouth University


© Seth Wenig / AP
Monmouth University

Through extensive contact tracing, the rise in cases was linked to a single event held about two weeks ago, Monmouth president Patrick Leahy wrote Friday. This event was held off-campus, although school officials did not specify what kind of event it was, only calling it a “social gathering.” 

Since August 24, Monmouth has reported over 319 coronavirus cases. According to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard, only 96 of those cases are considered active, while the other 223 account for recovered cases. 

The school has not yet determined whether fully remote learning will continue for the rest of the fall semester. In his open letter, Leahy emphasized how important testing and social distancing was to the status of the fall semester. 

“I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of compliance with Monmouth University COVID-19 protocols and State of New Jersey health and safety measures to effectively protect the Monmouth community,” Leahy wrote on Friday. “The future of our fall semester will rest, in large part, on the ability of everyone to follow these necessary protocols.”

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These new cases are a part of New Jersey’s increase in weekly positive cases. According to Johns Hopkins University, the state had at least 469 new cases reported in the last seven days, bringing Jersey’s total case count to 214,097. 

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University of Washington virus outbreak continues to grow

SEATTLE (AP) — A COVID-19 outbreak involving students at the University of Washington’s fraternities and sororities continues to grow with 238 positive cases as of Monday morning.

University spokesperson Victor Balta said Monday the cases were spread among 16 sororities and fraternities in the 45-chapter system, which is north of the university campus in Seattle.

The numbers are up from 179 cases as of Tuesday last week, and 227 cases on Friday.

Students who have tested positive or have COVID-like symptoms are being told to isolate in their current place of residence, according to the university. At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee expressed frustration about the behavior on Greek Row “that is exposing all of us to great risk.”

“They’ve got to step up and take responsibility for this because these things can just blow up, and frankly they are,” he said last week.

Inslee said his office planned to make it clear that there needs to be leadership from the sororities and fraternities on this issue. On Monday, Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk told The Associated Press in an email that the governor’s policy staff has been working on recommendations related to higher education to further mitigate COVID spread. The recommendations are still being developed for the governor’s review, he wrote.

An outbreak in June infected 154 students in 15 fraternity houses at the university.

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Virus touches college football, from upending schedules to making coaches ill

If coach Dana Holgorsen seemed relieved after his University of Houston football team finally played a game Thursday night, no one can blame him. Five times the Cougars had season-opening opponents either cancel or postpone games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

When finally allowed on the field, the Cougars overcame five turnovers to outlast Tulane 49-31.

“We won, so that’s good, but there’s a lot of things we’ve got to get better at,” Holgorsen told reporters.

Houston’s story is only one of several to play out this season as colleges return to campus and try to find a way to coexist with COVID-19. Through Thursday, 26 FBS games had been postponed or canceled since the season began. That’s in addition to the upheaval of conferences retooling their schedules for later starts and shorter seasons.

The Gophers are scheduled to open a nine-game Big Ten season on Oct. 24 against Michigan.

In Houston’s case, the season was supposed to start Sept. 3 vs. Rice, but the Owls dropped out because of COVID-19. The next game, vs. Washington State, was eliminated when the Pac-12 originally canceled its season. The next game, vs. Memphis, was postponed, and the Cougars scrambled to fill that date with Baylor, until the Bears canceled 48 hours before kickoff. North Texas became the fifth program to beg out, canceling the Sept. 26 game.

“You can’t compare this to anything. … This is on a whole ’nother level,” Holgorsen said earlier this week. “The one thing that has given us hope is we sit here and watch other teams playing.”

Familiar names impacted

When Notre Dame and Florida State meet Saturday night in South Bend, Ind., on display will be two teams whose seasons have been impacted greatly by COVID-19.

The fifth-ranked Fighting Irish return after their Sept. 26 game against Wake Forest was postponed because of an outbreak. Notre Dame had 39 players in isolation or quarantine after 18 players tested positive.

Coach Brian Kelly pointed to a pregame meal before the season opener against South Florida as the culprit.

“We had somebody who was asymptomatic, and it spread like wildfire throughout our meeting area where we were eating,” Kelly told ESPN.

Meanwhile, Seminoles coach Mike Norvell tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn’t coach in the 52-10 loss at Miami on Sept. 26. “You learn from every experience,” Norvell told reporters. “We need to make sure we get things corrected and respond at a much higher level.”

BYU managing well

In the days before COVID-19, Brigham Young had an ambitious schedule for 2020. The Cougars, an independent team, had lined up two games against Big Ten teams — including a Sept. 26 road contest against the Gophers — three against Pac-12 foes and one against an SEC squad. That all changed in August, when conferences began postponing the season and BYU hustled to fashion a new schedule.

The results so far have been good. Ranked No. 15 in both major national polls, the Cougars have steamrolled Navy (55-3),

U moves spring break to April at Twin Cities campus because of virus

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt life at the University of Minnesota, rippling across the academic calendar and punching holes in the school’s budget.

Spring break will be moved from March to April at the school’s Twin Cities and Rochester campuses, U leaders announced at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday. Duluth, Morris and Crookston students will have their spring break days spread across the semester.

Separately, administrators and regents discussed the financial toll the pandemic has taken on the university. Associate Vice President and Budget Director Julie Tonneson said the school experienced a $65 million shortfall in fiscal year 2020 because of the pandemic. Officials were able to plug that budget gap by pulling about $22 million out of the U’s central reserves and using $24 million in uncommitted funds and roughly $19 million in federal funding.

“We are now assessing what the shortfall will be for [fiscal 2021],” Tonneson said. “It will be significantly larger than that.”

The size of the budget hit will hinge on some major variables, Tonneson said. If fall football were to be canceled a second time, or if the U’s campuses were to shut down and shift online again, the budget picture could be even more dire. Officials will present budget projections to regents in the coming months.

Students will also feel the impact of the pandemic into next year, with the spring break changes and continuation of campus social distancing policies.

Twin Cities and Rochester students will have their spring breaks shifted from March to April 5-9, coinciding with the spring breaks of Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools.

At the university’s Morris campus, spring break days will be broken up and spread across the semester. Crookston’s spring break will be replaced with one midweek study day plus two extra study days to be taken between the last day of classes and the week of final exams. Duluth students will take the Monday and Tuesday of their spring break week off, with the remaining three days to be used as study days between the end of spring instruction and exams week.

“Each campus engaged in extensive consultation with their respective communities and governance structures,” U Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson said.

The spring break delay at the Twin Cities and Rochester campuses will allow for more instruction to be completed before students take time off. There is concern that students may travel during the vacation period and bring COVID-19 back to campus.

Administrators will decide at a later time whether to resume some in-person instruction after spring break or fully pivot to distance learning, as they are doing after Thanksgiving break this fall.

The U’s spring break plan diverges from those of its Big Ten counterparts. The University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa, Ohio State University and Purdue University have scrapped the spring recess entirely.

Unless public health circumstances change, masks will again be required in campus facilities during the spring semester, and 6-foot social distancing will be maintained