In an online address to the campus community, University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced today that after a two-week break, all in-person undergraduate classes will resume in stages beginning Wednesday (Sept. 2). In-person instruction was suspended and several gathering restrictions were instituted Aug. 18 after a steep rise in new COVID-19 cases on campus.
Since then, the number of new cases has decreased substantially and, while the positivity rate of 10.8 percent is high, it, too, is on the decline, and from Aug. 20 through 25 was 6.3 percent. In addition, more than 1,200 surveillance tests on members of the campus community have been conducted with a less than 1 percent positivity rate.
“With these encouraging numbers, we believe we can plan to return to in-person classes and gradually open up the campus,” Father Jenkins said.
Marie Lynn Miranda, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost of the University, and Executive Vice President Shannon Cullinan will review the improvements made over the past two weeks and send students, faculty and staff more information about the gradual resumption of in-person classes and staged re-opening of campus spaces.
Father Jenkins asked all members of the campus community to commit to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, washing hands, completing the daily health check, reporting for surveillance testing if called and limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer people while observing health guidelines.
“If we adopt these practices, we can have a safe and successful semester on campus,” he said.
Father Jenkins acknowledged that the “virus hit us harder and more swiftly than we expected, and we fell behind. However, through the efforts of many, we have adapted and improved our systems and procedures. We are now in a much stronger position.”
He said that bringing attention to student gatherings as the source of many infections was “not to cast blame, but to make us all aware of the consequences of our actions on our community and our ability to continue the semester here.”
The University will continue to refer serious violations of health precautions to its conduct process. To date, hearings for 87 students are in process, involving violations of varying levels of gravity. “Although we do not comment on the outcome of hearings, I assure you that we will respond to violations with the seriousness they deserve,” Father Jenkins said.
He went on to speak of his pride in all members of the Notre Dame community.
“I’m proud of staff members who have gone above and beyond their ordinary responsibilities to keep the campus open and safe,” he said. “I’m proud of the faculty who, despite challenging conditions, have demonstrated such dedication to teaching our students, and perhaps above all, I’m proud of our students, who have responded to the challenges, adopted the health protocols and joined together to enable us to continue the semester.”
He concluded by saying: “The virus dealt us a blow and we stumbled, but we steadied ourselves and now we move on. Let us redouble our diligence in observing health protocols and recommit to a semester of learning and growth. Together, we are writing one of the great comebacks in Notre Dame history.”