The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the largest schools in the U.S., is canceling all in-person classes after an outbreak of COVID-19.
The sudden change to remote learning comes a week after classes began for the fall semester. The school had instituted remote learning for most classes in March during the initial spread of the coronavirus.
On Monday, school officials said that 177 students had tested positive for the coronavirus and another 350 were in quarantine in dorms and off-campus housing because of possible exposure.
“We understand the concern and frustrations these changes will raise with many students and parents,” UNC-Chapel Hill’s chancellor, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, and provost, Robert A. Blouin, wrote in a statement. “As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation.”
About 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend UNC-Chapel Hill. School officials said many students wear masks on campus and are practicing social distancing.
They blamed the outbreak on less conscientious students packing bars and off-campus parties.
At least two other universities – Oklahoma State and Notre Dame – have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, and officials at several other schools said they fear they could be next.
Oklahoma State officials quarantined students at a sorority house after 23 cases were confirmed. OSU officials said they learned of the COVID-19 cases at the Pi Beta Phi sorority in Stillwater on Friday night. Students and faculty were alerted Saturday afternoon via email, according to local media.
At least 58 students at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana have tested positive for COVID-19 since early August.
“As a student, I’m frustrated as hell,” said Oklahoma State junior Ryan Novozinsky. “These are people I have to interact with. There will be professors they interact with, starting today, that won’t be able to fight this off.”
Many U.S. colleges are holding a combination of online and in-person classes this fall, prompting students to request reductions in tuition.
Two major college football conferences – the Big Ten and Pac-12 – have canceled their seasons, and it is unclear how other conferences plan to proceed.
“If you don’t want to protect yourself and you don’t want to protect your family, and you don’t want to protect your friends and thousands of jobs, maybe, just maybe, you would want to protect football season so we can have it this fall,” said Walt Maddox, the Democratic mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home to the University of Alabama. Photos of students without masks and not socially distancing had appeared on social media.
Nursing home cases spike
The number of coronavirus cases in U.S. nursing homes jumped nearly 80% between late June and the end of July, according to a report released Monday by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.
Experts say visitors and nursing home employees who were asymptomatic may be partially to blame for the upswing.
However, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, said federal and state inspectors “have seen staff forgetting to wash their hands, congregating in break rooms, and wearing (protective equipment) improperly. All the testing in the world is for naught if staff don’t adhere to the basic, longstanding infection control practices that the federal government has had in place for years.”
The first major outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. was in a nursing facility near Seattle in February. The elderly are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and many have underlying health issues that make it impossible to recover if they contract COVID-19.
Repurposed drug shows promise
Scientists at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering have found that a drug used to treat bipolar disorder and hearing loss shows promise as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
According to their research, the drug binds itself to a key enzyme that allows a virus to replicate itself.
The drug, Ebselen, prevents that enzyme from working, they found.
The scientists said they started their research with the goal of finding a weakness in the coronavirus because that vulnerability could be useful in developing new therapies against COVID-19.
Their study appears in the August 14 issue of the journal Science Advances.
Virus spikes in France, Libya
French riot police were deployed to the Marseille region Monday to enforce new requirements for outdoor farmers markets.
There have been several violent reactions in France to the expanded mask mandates in several towns and cities.
France reported more than 3,000 new cases in just one day, Sunday – one of its highest spikes in cases since a nationwide lockdown was eased in May. France has tallied 242,650 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 30,302 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Libyan health officials say they fear the virus is slipping out of their control, and a huge jump in new cases is further taxing a medical system already strained from civil war.
The daily number of coronavirus cases in Libya has jumped from several hundred early in the outbreak. The nation has close to 8,200 confirmed cases and 153 deaths.
Medical officials say too many Libyans are not social distancing and are holding large weddings and funerals.
“They need to know that the virus is real, the casualties are real, the deaths are real,” said Ahmed al-Hasi, spokesman for the state medical committee responsible for countering the virus in eastern Libya.
But some Libyans say the country’s war-torn economy has elevated the masks needed to help contain the virus to luxury items.
“I prefer to buy bread for my children,” said a Tripoli cab driver.
Source: Voice of America