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UNM ends in-person classes for rest of semester

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico students will go to online-only courses beginning Monday through the rest of the fall semester in response to state public health orders aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

That’s just a few days earlier than UNM officials had hoped for at the start of the semester. The plan in August was for students to have a mixture of mainly online but some in-person instruction until Thanksgiving break, after which all classes would go online.

While there have been COVID-19 infections reported on UNM’s campus, school officials said there has been no evidence of “spreading events” in either classrooms or dorms, according to the university’s website.

A “spreading event” would be declared if multiple infections in the campus community were traced back to a single person or event, said Cinnamon Blair, a UNM spokeswoman.

Students and employees at UNM, not counting health systems employees, have had a combined 255 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the school’s COVID-19 website on Friday. The site tracks cases daily. Bernalillo County, where UNM is located, on Friday surpassed 20,000 total cases.

Students on the main campus have accounted for 171 of the 255 cases, Blair said.

New Mexico State University has had 346 total COVID-19 cases, according to the school’s website.

Some universities throughout the country have had more significant outbreaks. Universities in the region that have had more than 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases include Texas Tech University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, according to The New York Times.

“We started the fall semester with a plan to keep our campuses safe, while continuing to keep our students engaged and successful in their education, and conducting vital research,” UNM provost James Holloway said in a statement to the Journal. “Thanks to the sustained efforts of our students, faculty and staff to follow COVID safe practices, we’ve been able to largely stick to that plan, both protecting the pack and advancing our mission.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been mixed feelings about the school’s handling of COVID-19 cases. Students have raised concerns on social media and in the student newspaper about the transparency surrounding cases, especially after a student in an apartment-style housing complex tested positive.

The spring semester starts Jan. 11. The school is currently planning to start the semester with one week of online instruction – in part so students returning from other states can more easily complete a two-week quarantine – before hybrid coursework starts again.

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