(Updated at 10 a.m.) Despite the pandemic, and dozens of COVID-19 cases, Arlington-based Marymount University says the fall semester — conducted with a mix of in-person and virtual classes — was largely a success.
“In what has been perhaps the most challenging semester for U.S. higher educational institutions in recent memory, Marymount University has successfully navigated the Fall 2020 academic semester as planned without any disruptions to its hybrid learning format or in-person living,” the university said.
Marymount says that it had 86 positive cases of COVID-19 among its students, faculty and staff — around 4,000 people — between mid-August and mid-December. That’s about a 2.2% infection rate among the school community during that time.
By comparison, Arlington’s overall population of around 230,000 recorded 4,329 positive cases from Aug. 15 to Dec. 15, a 1.9% infection rate.
The university said it was able to contain a cluster of infections on campus in October with the help of targeted testing and Arlington’s Public Health Department.
According to Marymount, only six of the 86 positive cases were among staff members and none of those staff members were subsequently hospitalization. Additionally, the university says that no infections were traced back to a classroom setting.
Marymount conducted in-person classes for most of the semester, but held classes, exams and other course requirements after Thanksgiving break online.
“In my view, especially for a university located in the populous Washington, D.C., metro area, this is a success story worth sharing – and it’s thanks to all of our community members for understanding their roles in keeping each other safe,” Marymount President Dr. Irma Becerra said in a press release. “Our low rate of infection and continuous operations throughout the fall speak volumes in support of our preparation and determination to fulfill our mission — to provide a high-quality academic experience that opens doors for students and helps them grow personally and professionally.”
The university spent around $2 million preparing for the fall semester, the Washington Business Journal reported in September. Marymount received slightly over that amount from the CARES Act, but reportedly dedicated those funds to student financial aid and refunds.
Marymount, which has campuses along N. Glebe Road in Ballston and in residential North Arlington, is planning to begin spring classes on January 19, “with the hybrid class format continuing for the foreseeable future.”
“In order to begin the semester in a safe and secure manner, the University intends to test all student residents, student athletes, commuters registered for in-person classes, faculty who teach in-person classes and identified staff members for COVID-19 prior to the start of classes,” the university said. “In addition, Marymount is working on a campus plan for vaccination whenever it becomes available to higher educational institutions.”