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Southern Oregon U. returns to remote learning for first weeks of fall term

The campus of Southern Oregon University.
The campus of Southern Oregon University.

Southern Oregon University announced it is moving back to remote learning for the first few weeks of the fall term because hospitals in the region are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

SOU in Ashland is the only public university in Oregon to announce that it’s no longer having a fully in-person fall term.

Neil Woolf, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, says university leaders came to this decision after consulting with local public health agencies.

“They’ve asked us to do all that we can to reduce not only the spread of COVID through the delta variant, but to ease the burden that’s been placed on our local, regional hospitals,” Woolf says.

Most lecture-style classes will be taught remotely, but performing arts and laboratory classes will still come to campus on Sept. 22. Other on-campus student resources — including the library, recreation center, and wellness center — will be open to students, but they need to show their vaccination card or proof that they received a negative coronavirus test in the last 48 hours.

That same rule applies to both students and attendees at sports events and theater performances.

Woolf says SOU administrators hope to return to a fully in-person fall term by mid-October, but that depends on whether hospitals are still struggling.

Southwestern Oregon was the first region to get hit with the latest coronavirus surge that has filled intensive care units beyond capacity. But now hospitals across the state are overwhelmed, and 94 percent of Oregon’s ICU beds are full.

Still, administrators with other campuses — including Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University — say they’re committed to bringing students back to campus for in-person learning later this month.

“The UO has carefully developed safety plans and UO remains confident and committed to welcoming students back to campus for in-person learning, living, and experiences for fall term,” says UO spokesperson Molly Blancett.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting