University of Arkansas to continue in-person classes amid COVID-19 Omicron surge

Northwest Arkansas News

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas kicks off the spring semester in a couple weeks despite a climbing rate of COVID-19 cases in the area.

In an email to students, faculty and staff, Interim Chancellor Charles Robinson laid out the plans for the new semester, expressing no intent to make any changes to the current COVID-19 mitigation policy.

U of A junior Beau Russell said he’s worried that with the surge of the Omicron variant of COIVD-19 in the area, the university’s precautions may not be enough to protect students.

“I think to just completely ignore it is not really a great idea. I think its odd that we shut down when there were less cases and now there’s more than there have been and we’re just gonna seemingly do nothing,” he said.

University spokesman John Thomas said that the university’s mitigation steps like requiring masks indoors and providing incentives for vaccinations have been effective at keeping the school’s case count low since the pandemic began.

“We’re going to be continuing that same plan going into the Spring as of now, which includes requiring masks inside the classrooms at all times,” Thomas said.

Even still, Russell said he feels that the university’s mask requirement isn’t being enforced.

“On any given day you could have, everyone wearing their masks or, half the kids in the buildings are just completely ignoring it,” Russell said.

That’s why Russell thinks additional steps should be taken to start the semester.

“There’s any number of things that I think would be worthwhile,” he said. “For one, maybe, just have the first two weeks of classes virtual.”

Thomas, however, said the university is ready to adapt to the pandemic if necessary.

“We’ll continue to evaluate. We’ve got teams in place that have been looking at this, honestly, from day one in 2020,” he said.

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