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University of Utah to use online classes as ‘circuit breaker’ against COVID-19 infections

Two-week halt to in-person classes intended to help protect the campus community

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James Claus, David Eccles School of Business executive in residence, and his assistant, Jun Makise, walk through the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. They are on campus to discuss fall learning protocols. The U. will shift to online classes Sept. 28 through Oct. 9 in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will shift to online classwork for two weeks midsemester as a means to reduce possible COVID-19 infections on campus.

The university had planned to shift to online coursework around the vice presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 7 at Kingsbury Hall. Officials have since announced the break will be from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9. On-campus classes will resume Oct. 12.

According to Steven Lacey, public health division chief at the university, creating a pause in the middle of the semester should help reduce the numbers of infections.

“We can use this interruption to better protect students, faculty and staff,” said Lacey in a statement.

University officials decided to pivot to online learning for two weeks based on models developed by U. Health infectious disease epidemiologist Lindsay Keegan.

Dan Reed, senior vice president for academic affairs, said the two-week online “circuit breaker” will reduce spread of the virus and help protect the campus community.

“As a leading public research university, the U. is drawing on the public health expertise of University of Utah Health epidemiology researchers in making this change,” Reed said.

University leaders have focused on preserving the on-campus college experience for first-year college students and ensuring that seniors are able to complete their graduation requirements.

A majority of classes will be delivered online, with exceptions for experiential learning courses, including fine arts studio classes; practicums and clinical rotations; and laboratory instruction.

All courses will shift online after Thanksgiving break, which begins Nov. 25.

Fall classes begin at the U. on Aug. 24. The university will offer a variety of instructional models: in-person, online and in-person hybrids, online and interactive video conferencing models.

The university has invested $500,000 to upgrade more than 100 classrooms with video capture and conferencing as well as classroom check-out equipment such as microphones, audio amplification and document cameras. The equipment was purchased using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News