College students head back to campus across Indiana for adjusted spring semester

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Thousands of college students are headed back to school for the spring semester, and most of them will need to test negative for COVID-19 first.

Indiana University, Purdue University and Ball State University all start back on Tuesday, January 19. IU students will not go back to in person classes until three weeks after the semester begins. At Butler, classes will start a week later on January 25.

“The spring semester is going to look very much like the fall semester,” said IU Assistant Director of Public and Environmental Health Graham McKeen.

Students who live on campus will be tested upon arrival. Throughout the semester, all students could be randomly tested as IU hopes to administer as many as 50,000 tests a week. At Purdue and Ball State, students will need to submit a negative test to return.

“We’ve learned a lot, but a lot of it remains the same: distancing and masking are still the best tools we have,” McKeen said.

Many students will travel from out of state. In counties under the state’s red status, like Purdue’s Tippecanoe County, activities will be even more limited.

“We will see an increase in our total number of cases just because our population is increasing by a significant amount,” said Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler.

All of Indiana’s big universities also adjusted calendars to eliminate spring break this year. McKeen said he can’t rely on vaccines to make a difference this semester, since students will likely be among the last group eligible for vaccination.

“I don’t anticipate to see the level of surge that we saw in our student population in (the) fall, but … you would obviously expect an increase,” McKeen said.

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