School Report Card: This week, school releases autopsy results for student with COVID-19, and colleges relax rules amid election anxiety

Elise Solé
·9-min read
Some colleges are making life easier for students during Election Week. (Photo: Getty Images)
Some colleges are making life easier for students during Election Week. (Photo: Getty Images)

Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.

Indiana college shares autopsy results for student who had COVID-19

A student with COVID-19 who was found dead in her Grace College dorm room on Oct. 30 died of a pulmonary embolus (a blockage of the pulmonary artery in the lung), the Christian school in Winona Lake, Ind. said on Tuesday.

The death of psychology major Bethany Nesbitt, 20, was widely covered by news outlets this week. “After a complete investigation and autopsy, the cause of death has been ruled natural due to a pulmonary embolus that had not been previously detected,” read the school notice quoting Kosciusko County Coroner Tony Ciriello. “While COVID did play a role in contributing to the death, it was not caused by COVID.”

“Our hearts are shattered,” Bethany’s brother, Stephen Nesbitt, tweeted. “Bethany was the baby of our family, the youngest of nine. She loved Jesus. She loved memes. And she loved her family and friends until the very end.” The Grand Ledge, Mich. native aspired to be a child life specialist after graduating next spring.

According to a family statement tweeted by Stephen, Bethany was tested for COVID-19 on Oct. 22 after experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus. She began quarantining in her single dorm room although she never received her test results due to an “unknown clerical error.” A second test delivered positive results after her death.

“While Bethany was sick, her mother worked with Bethany to monitor her oxygen saturation levels since Bethany was asthmatic,” the family wrote. “Bethany was also monitored by campus health officials.” On Oct. 26, after her oxygen saturation levels dropped, she was taken to the emergency room where a doctor determined that she “very likely” had COVID-19, however, it did not appear severe. So Bethany returned to school, where her fever subsided and her oxygen levels were normalizing, said her family. On Oct. 29, Bethany was re-tested and after her death the following day, the results returned positive.

“Please don’t assume that young people will not be impacted by this virus,” said the family. “The risks of gathering in large groups aren’t worth it this year.”

As of Thursday, there were 15 current cases among students, faculty and staff at Grace College and 99 in total since classes started on Aug. 19. The college has always offered both in-person and online courses but this year remote options were added for students requesting them and for those in quarantine or isolation, a college spokesperson tells Yahoo Life.

Grace College & Seminary is located in Kosciusko County, where there are 2,696 total positive COVID-19 cases and 200,823 statewide, according to Thursday data from the Indiana State Department of Health.

While older people are most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19, younger ones are not immune: 20 percent of cases between March and August were among 20-29-year-olds, according to a Sept. CDC report.

As the coronavirus pandemic and Election Week collide, colleges ease burden on students

Mental health is an especially concerning issue on college campuses this year, with the coronavirus pandemic causing spikes in depression and anxiety among students, according to a recent University of California, Berkeley survey of 46,071 undergraduate and graduate students across nine public research universities. Findings showed that 39 percent of students screened positive for anxiety disorder, with anxiety and depression higher among low-income and LGBTQ students and students of color.

Now, amid record-breaking surges in COVID-19 cases and the mayhem of election week, some colleges are easing psychological and logistical strains for students. American University in Washington, D.C. and Brown University in Providence, R.I. canceled classes on Nov. 3 so students could vote in person, while the University of Utah in Salt Lake City encouraged professors to avoid scheduling tests and due dates for Nov. 3 and 4.

At Syracuse University in New York, some professors made their courses optional, according to the Daily Orange, an independent student newspaper.

Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, tells Yahoo Life that instead of the scheduled syllabus on Wednesday and Thursday, students — and Grygiel’s pet Labrador — went to nearby Thornden Park to make friendship bracelets and color for a “rest hour.” Some students participated through Instagram Live, says Grygiel, who also teaches social media.

“We’re at a time when empathy is drained — how can we be there for each other if we don't make space for rest?” says Grygiel. “We had a blast and I got great feedback that students needed [the class].”

Sarah Miraglia, a part-time instructor of Women's and Gender Studies told the Daily Orange of her students, “They wanted to hold class, and they wanted it to be a place where they could talk about the election because online classes have been really difficult for them, and they wanted a space where they could talk to each other.”

Syracuse University commenced class on Aug. 24 with online and hybrid classes; so far, the school has recorded 238 positive COVID-19 since Aug. 2 (when students returned to campus) and has 69 active cases.

According to the Onondaga County Health Department, the city of Syracuse has 2,696 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while Onondaga County has 6,122 and the state has 518,812, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Students suspended, sent home for attending Halloween parties

Since colleges reopened this fall, many students have been punished for breaking pandemic restrictions and placing their communities at risk for COVID-19. Halloween was no different, as mask-free and packed parties landed students in trouble.

On Sunday, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. sent interim suspension letters to 46 students, most of whom violated the school’s COVID-19 Student Pledge to wear masks and socially distance over Halloween weekend. The parties, a college spokesperson tells Yahoo Life, occurred on Oct. 30 and 31, both on and off-campus.

“In addition to taking immediate actions, we continue to investigate reports of unacceptable behavior,” says the spokesperson, adding that the majority of students adhere to safety guidelines. “As a result, 31 individuals have been placed in precautionary quarantine as required by Saratoga County Public Health Services.”

The college began its fall semester on Aug. 24, welcoming the majority of students back to in-person classes. To date, the school, with a 2,500 student population (most of whom returned to campus, says a spokesperson), has recorded eight positive COVID-19 cases. Saratoga County has recorded 1,477 positive COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., 20 students who attended an Oct. 29 Halloween party, were sent home for the remainder of the semester. Those students can take remote classes, however, they cannot participate in on-campus activities, a spokesperson tells Yahoo Life.

According to a statement sent by Quinnipiac to Yahoo Life, the party — attended by students from multiple universities — took place at Anthony’s Ocean View, an event venue in New Haven that was subsequently shut down until further notice by the New Haven Health Department.

“We have verified that among the attendees were students from QU, that masks were not worn, social distancing wasn’t practiced, and total attendance exceeded public health guidelines,” said the university. It urged anyone who attended the event to self-quarantine this week and attend class remotely. “As a precaution, we will increase our sample testing in clusters of students identified as peers of attendees at the event to facilitate rapid containment efforts,” the statement read.

On Wednesday, because of a “continued increase in new COVID-19 cases among students,” the university elevated its campus alert level to orange, one of four categories based on criteria like the number of positive COVID-19 cases among students, the capacity of campus quarantine and isolation housing (the school has 200 beds) and county and state COVID-19 cases.

“Since last updating our COVID-19 dashboard on Monday, Nov. 2, there have been 55 new cases. Thirty-four are among on-campus students and 21 are off campus,” read a university notice. “There are currently 108 active cases in isolation.” Most classes moved to remote platforms through Friday and students were asked to remain indoors “as much as possible” and limit interactions with roommates and others.

Classes began on Aug. 24. However, the school began tracking data on Aug. 5 and has since reported 139 positive COVID-19 cases, per the school dashboard.

On Thursday, the state of Connecticut, with 77,060 cases, issued a public health advisory urging residents to limit or stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. to reduce the risk of transmission, except essential workers or those completing essential tasks.

“Since Sept. 20, the number of new cases over a 14-day period in Connecticut has increased nearly 3-fold with 6,895 new cases reported during the period of Oct. 18–Nov. 1, 2020 compared to 2,537 cases reported during Sept. 20–Oct. 4,” read an announcement from the Connecticut State Department of Public Health.

“The average daily case rate for COVID-19 has climbed during the same period from 5.1 per 100,000 population to 14 per 100,000,” read the notice. In addition, at least 70 percent of Connecticut’s population now lives in either a red alert or orange alert community for COVID-19 infection. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have increased from 68 on Sept. 20 to 329 on Oct. 29, representing an increase of 483 percent.”

That day, the state announced it was enforcing stricter rules on gatherings at private residences to 10 people, regardless of whether they're held indoor or outdoors. The change goes into effect on Friday. “It’s those informal, private gatherings where we’re seeing the ignition taking off in terms of the infection rate,” Lamont said. “That’s a tough one. I’ve got to count on your self-monitoring this as well as you can. Thanksgiving dinner: 10. That dinner party: 10. And we’re recommending that people be home by 10 o’clock at night.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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