The University of Wyoming will continue to offer in-person learning after students return from spring break thanks to the ongoing decline in COVID-19 cases and the growing availability of vaccines to protect against the virus, the school announced Friday.
UW officials had planned to ask students to leave the university residence halls and not return after spring break, which begins March 31 and lasts one week. Instead, some faculty members may continue to offer face-to-face classes or switch to that option, the university said in an announcement. Living in the dorms will also be allowed through the semester’s end.
The school will continue to require masks, social distancing and testing for the virus.
“The very positive outcome of our ongoing measures to manage the spread of the virus, combined with the faster-than-expected rollout and acceptance of vaccines, has allowed us to make this change for those who’d like to remain on campus after spring break,” UW President Ed Seidel said in a statement. “We realize that many students, based on our original plan, have already made plans to go elsewhere and complete the semester online. They definitely will be able to do so. But, conditions have improved to the point that, for those who’d like to continue with a campus experience, we’re able to welcome them to stay.”
It’s not clear how many classes will be taught in-person following spring break, the school said. Some faculty had already received approval to continue face-to-face classes after spring break. Others might now shift to that option.
After the break, students will be required to attend classes virtually for a week while undergoing testing. In-person classes could resume as early as April 12.
“We are all looking forward to the day when we no longer have to socially distance, wear masks and be tested regularly,” Seidel said. “But those measures have helped us to get to this point, and continuing them through the spring semester will put us in the best position to return to a pre-pandemic environment in the fall.”
The change is a reflection of COVID-19’s loosening grip on the state. As of Thursday, there were only 408 total active cases in the state, down from nearly 12,000 in the fall. Hospitals were treating only 14 coronavirus patients, compared with roughly 250 at the end of November.
Meanwhile, 124,000 Wyomingites — or roughly a fifth of the state’s residents — have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. County health departments continue to make the vaccine available to more demographic groups.
All university employees are now eligible for the vaccine, according to the school, as are students with certain health conditions. All students might be eligible by the end of the spring semester.
The University of Wyoming was already planning to move toward a more traditional learning experience for the fall semester. And the school announced last week that it would hold in-person graduation ceremonies this spring, albeit with limits on guests and mask and social distancing requirements.
Photos: The COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Wyoming