Sacred Heart University in Connecticut is threatening to send students home for remote learning unless the school can flatten its infection curve and students take social distancing more seriously.
John Petillo, president of the university in Fairfield that has over 9,000 students, delivered a tough message to students in a Monday YouTube address, saying, “We cannot continue this way and remain business as usual.”
“Do you want to still be on campus, going to class, participating in clubs or extracurricular activities and having team workouts? Or do you want to be at home with online learning?” Petillo said.
The school is employing a hybrid model for academic learning this fall that is meant to allow “faculty and staff to quickly and easily switch to fully online should a spike in coronavirus cases on campus.”
In his message, Petillo said some students have already opted to switch to all online classes, and he has parents calling him urging him to shut down in-person learning.
“We as a university are at a critical point in our fight against the virus,” Petillo said in his video address. “We are seeing too many positive COVID cases among students, particularly those living in off-campus housing.”
The school recorded 105 new coronavirus cases in a one week period between Sept. 14 and 21, according to its dashboard. Of the new cases, 22 were among students living on campus and 83 among those off campus.
The president said that while most students have followed rules to prevent the spread of the virus, some have not been taking the pandemic seriously.
He urged students to practice social distancing with anyone they don't live with and to wear masks. “I know these requests may seem unreasonably harsh," Petillo said. "But again we are a real point of decision about the future of the semester on the ground. We need to turn the tide and get the spread of the virus under control."
The warning at Sacred Heart comes as many colleges and universities around the country are struggling to contain virus outbreaks.
In neighboring Massachusetts, for example, Merrimack College announced Tuesday that all 266 students in one dorm are under quarantine after 17 coronavirus cases were found there. Most of the students are quarantining off campus and the rest in the dorm.