Large spike in Miami University cases threatens return to campus

If Miami University’s students are going to return to in-person learning later this month, school officials warned Tuesday, there has to be a reversal in the sharp rise of off-campus students testing positive for the coronavirus.

Miami data show a 261 percent increase in the number of students reporting a positive test result, up from 69 new student cases Friday to 249 new student cases of Monday.

Since Aug. 21, Miami – whose main campus enrollment is more than 16,000 students – has seen a total of 527 positive COVID-19 cases, as of Monday.

Miami is still conducting remote learning, and the upward spike in cases among students comes from those living in the surrounding community away from the main Oxford campus.

And school officials now say students who refuse to take a test in a coming wide sampling of students will be denied access to campus services and will have to return to remote learning.

In-person classes are tentatively scheduled to begin Sept. 21, but that won’t happen, said Miami University President Gregory Crawford, until school officials see a reversal of the current trend.

“We must see declines in the spread of COVID-19 cases in the days ahead. We are only three weeks away from our planned start date for in-person and hybrid classes, and two weeks from the start of move-in for our students living on campus,” according to a statement released by Miami officials.

Miami freshmen are scheduled to move into the Oxford campus residence halls on Sept. 14.

Miami’s increase in cases mirrors what other universities across the nation are seeing, some of which opened earlier the Miami with in-person classes. But some have since been forced to return to close – sending campus residence students home – and have returned to remote learning as a safety precaution.

“During the past few days, we and many other universities are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly for students living off-campus, which must be reduced,” said Crawford.

“This is a very critical week. It is vital for us in Oxford to achieve a downward trend in positive cases in our off-campus community before our planned in-person start,” he said.

According to Miami’s website answering questions about student testing the school “initially planned to require students to obtain a COVID-19 test before arriving on campus, that decision was reversed for two primary reasons.

“The CDC does not recommend such testing and instead recommends that everyone take preventative measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

“And given the shortages of testing materials and back-up in laboratory processing times across the country, requiring all incoming residential students did not appear to be either a reasonable or responsible use of limited public health resources,” said Miami officials.

Miami maintains and periodically updates its school “dashboard” and can be accessed at its school website.

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