The Journal Gazette
Monday, March 08, 2021 1:00 am

Vigilance stressed by schools over break

Fears of virus surge arise

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

As spring beckons to students and their families, Allen County health officials are urging residents to remain vigilant with coronavirus precautions even as cases decrease and vaccinations increase.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still too early to abandon practices that have worked to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said in a statement.

Purdue University Fort Wayne is scheduled to begin its spring break today. The four Allen County school districts planned their spring breaks for early April.

Fort Wayne Community Schools advises those traveling internationally to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines and quarantine seven days after returning, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

The district, which has almost 30,000 students, wants to finish the school year without interference from a surge of post-spring break cases, she said. The final weeks of first semester included shifts to remote learning as illnesses and quarantines affected staffing.

“No matter where people go or what they do, we really want them to be safe,” Stockman said. “It's not time yet to let your guard down.”

State health officials last week announced a milestone in vaccination efforts. More than 1 million Hoosiers have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

None of Indiana's 92 counties last week were marked as red or orange on the state's color-coded map gauging the spread of the novel coronavirus. Instead, they were either blue or yellow – the lowest levels of spread.

COVID-19 cases topped 36,000 last week in Allen County, which has regularly reported fewer than 100 new daily cases in recent weeks, breaking the pattern of triple-digit increases.

This “significant decrease in cases” mirrors trends in Indiana and throughout the nation, Sutter said.

“However, some experts are still concerned there could be a surge in cases in the spring if people relax their behaviors around travel, social distancing and mask wearing,” Sutter said. “There are a number of variants of concern circulating in the U.S. that could have increased transmissibility.”

As the threat of the novel coronavirus increased last year, colleges including Purdue and Indiana universities suspended university-sponsored spring break trips to international destinations. Indiana Tech was among institutions that discouraged personal travel to countries with certain travel warnings.

While students at Purdue Fort Wayne and Ivy Tech will get a spring break this month, other area institutions are forgoing the traditional week off.

The University of Saint Francis is describing its days off this month – Thursday and Friday – as an abbreviated spring break. It also extended Easter break by canceling classes April 5.

Indiana Tech started spring semester a week late and eliminated spring break from the calendar, giving students a day off in each February and March instead, spokesman Brian Engelhart said.

“Part of the thought process was that by helping reduce spring break travel back and forth to places around the country and around the world, we would help reduce the potential exposure of members of the Tech community that might otherwise occur during travel,” Engelhart said by email.

Similarly, Trine scheduled several We Care Days this semester instead of spring break. On these days, relaxing and fun activities for students are held instead of classes, spokesman James Tew said.

Manchester University is spreading five break days over the semester. When announcing this change in October, university President Dave McFadden said officials hoped less travel, especially out-of-state trips common during spring break, would reduce the risk of students and staff being exposed to the coronavirus and bringing it back to campus.

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