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University in Illinois enacts 2-week quarantine for all students and bans social gatherings

Bradley University (Jimcrone/WikiCommons)

Bradley University is requiring all students to quarantine for two weeks and is temporarily reverting to remote learning due to concerns that clusters of COVID-19 are linked to off-campus gatherings, officials announced Tuesday.

Beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday, students at the college in Peoria must limit non-essential interactions, stay in their off-campus apartments, residence halls or Greek houses and take classes remotely for 14 days, according to a press release. They are prohibited from gathering with anyone besides roommates, having guests over or patronizing restaurants and bars.

The school has tallied about 50 cases so far, according to the release, and says the emergency measures are needed to respond to the outbreak without disrupting academic progress. Some of the clusters are also affecting on-campus residence halls, spokeswoman Renee Charles said.

“Although it may seem extreme, this move to temporary remote learning and a two-week, all-student quarantine allows us to focus on the continuity of the educational experience for all of our students while giving us time to gather data on the full extent of the spread of the virus and assess the best way to proceed as a community,” Bradley President Stephen Standifird said in a campus message Tuesday.

Most of the positive cases involve asymptomatic carriers and many have experienced only mild symptoms, Standifird said. More than 500 students were in quarantine as of Tuesday morning, though the numbers are expected to rise over the next few days, he said.

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The school served about 4,600 undergraduate students last year though it wasn’t clear Tuesday how many had returned for fall classes.

Students who fail to comply with the quarantine and new campus guidelines will be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal from campus. Students, faculty and staff can report violations using an online form.

During the quarantine, students can leave their residences to pick up meals, run essential errands, go to work and spend time outside while wearing a mask.

Standifird cautioned students not to move home during the temporary restrictions, saying that would complicate contact tracing and increase the risk of introducing new cases to the campus community.

He also rebuked students who have ignored the calls to wear masks and distance from others in small and large groups.

“Many of our positive cases can be traced back to these gatherings,” Standifird said in the message. “It’s actions like these that are putting people at risk and threatening our ability to stay on campus throughout the semester.”

Bradley has performed at least 565 COVID-19 tests since Aug. 24, two days before classes began, according to its public dashboard. The data did not appear to be updated after Sept. 3.

Bradley previously fended off a widespread outbreak after 12 students, including some who participated in new student orientation, tested positive in July. Those cases were also linked to an off-campus gathering that lacked adequate safety precautions.

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© 2020 the Chicago Tribune