COVID-19: UI, ISU and UNI eliminate spring break; more than 1,800 UI students have reported testing positive

Spring Break revelers crowd Panama City Beach in 2013. — Christopher Kuszajewski/Pixabay

There will be no spring break in 2021 for students at Iowa’s three public universities, the schools announced on Monday. The elimination of this standard part of student life is part of the effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Gaining an extra week of instruction time by eliminating spring break allows all three universities to push back their planned starting dates for the spring 2021 semester to Jan. 25. ISU plans to conclude its spring semester on May 6, and the last of the final exams at UNI are scheduled for the following day. UI said its spring semester will finish a week later on May 14.

Getting rid of spring break also eliminates the spring-break problem universities around the country faced this year. Giving students a week to travel increases the likelihood they may either visit areas with COVID-19 infections and bring the virus back to campus, or spread infections acquired in Johnson, Story and Black Hawk counties — all current COVID-19 hotspots — to the locations they visit during the break.

The three universities dealt with spring break this year by switching to all online classes to keep students from returning to campus. The universities currently plan to offer the combination of in-person and online classes during the spring semester they are currently offering during the fall semester.

In addition to its spring break announcement, UI published the latest update on the number of COVID-19 cases self-reported by students and staff. Since Aug. 18, a total of 1,804 students and 27 staff members have reported testing positive for the virus, according to the university.

“These data will not match data reported by the UI Hospitals & Clinics or by the Iowa Department of Public Health for several reasons, including different testing time intervals and geographic scope,” according to UI’s update.

At 10 a.m. on Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 406 Iowans had tested positive for COVID-19 during the previous 24 hours, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the state since March 8 to 74,767.

The newly reported cases on Monday included 23 residents of Johnson County and 31 residents of Linn County.

The department also reported three more deaths from the virus during that time period. A total of 1,221 Iowans had died from COVID-19 as of 10 a.m. on Monday, according to IDPH.

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