“As soon as I heard that that the freshmen class would be invited back, I decided to go,” said Ahmad Alsheikh, 18, of his decision to attend college in person this fall.
But even though Alsheikh has been on campus since September, he still communicates with his classmates largely online.
The Harvard freshman says he is careful to follow the school’s guidelines for social distancing and restrictions on social gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
Ahmad Alsheikh, 18, was admitted to the Harvard class of 2024.
Source: Ahmad Alsheikh
There are “a lot of virtual meet and greets,” he said. “Largely with the help of community building events through Zoom, I have been able to form social interactions and meet fellow first years in person.”
To date, Harvard has had just 24 reported positive cases of Covid-19 among its undergraduates, and only a limited number of students are permitted on the Cambridge. Massachusetts, campus.
Not every college experience is going as well.
Overall, 87% of institutions have combined in-person and virtual learning in response to the public health crisis, according to a report by the Institute of International Education that was based on data collected in July from more than 500 colleges and universities in the U.S.
Roughly 65% of current college students have been tested for Covid-19 since returning to school and 12% were positive as of the first week of November — nearly double the nationwide positivity rate during that time period, according to a recent survey by Testing.com of 1,000 undergraduate students who are currently on-campus for in-person learning.
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While being back on campus, nearly half, or 48%, of college students have gone to parties despite social distancing guidelines and 20% of them have tested positive for Covid-19, the report found.
Further, 5% of students said they would not get tested or self-quarantine if they found out they were at a party with classmates who tested positive.
Yet, the vast majority of college students still say they prefer in-person instruction to distance learning, particularly at the same high cost.
At the same time, such behavior is causing campuses across the country, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, to shut down after they experienced a surge in cases linked to fraternities, sororities and off-campus parties.
Whether institutions will be open for the spring semester remains very much up in the air.
One week out from Thanksgiving, coronavirus cases are still on the rise across the U.S. The national seven-day average of daily new infections now stands at 161,165, according to a CNBC analysis of John Hopkins data — 26% higher than a week ago.
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday the launch of a new online training platform which will enable unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers weathering the Covid-19 pandemic to learn new skills, earn certificates, and advance their careers at no cost. The new tool will provide access to nearly 4,000 online programs taught by leading professors and industry professionals on Coursera, with a focus on high-growth and in-demand sectors like advanced manufacturing, technology, and health care, among others.
“This new training platform will be key in this effort by ensuring unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers are not left behind by providing access to the resources and training they need to get back on their feet,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release.
The new course offerings are provided through a partnership between the New York State Department of Labor and Coursera, an online learning platform. The partnership will save New York millions of dollars over the next few years while providing free job skills training to New Yorkers. New Yorkers can request a free account on the New York State Department of Labor website.
The nearly 4,000 courses available through Coursera are taught by leading professors and industry educators and cover topics ranging from mechanical engineering and project management to technology and data science skills. Many of these programs provide a pathway to professional certificates and other certifications that can help New Yorkers elevate their careers or compete in a new industry. These include courses on project management, cybersecutiry, marketing in a digital world, how to manage a remote team, Google It Support Professional Certification, and an introduction to Apple iOS app development.
The state will also partner with New York-based businesses to encourage their employees to utilize this free learning opportunity.
Since the launch of the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative, more than 1 million workers have enrolled in over 7 million courses to gain critical skills for jobs of the future.
During the pandemic, Coursera — which ranked No. 4 on the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 list — has helped more than 330 government agencies across 70 countries and 30 U.S. states and cities support impacted workers with job-relevant skills training. Since the launch of the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative, more than 1 million workers have enrolled in over 7 million courses to gain critical skills for jobs of the future. Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative is modeled after a highly successful initiative that the company launched in March 2020, which offered free courses to over 3,700 colleges and universities that closed their campuses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In just six weeks, that initiative launched 6,400 programs for 2,800 colleges and universities around the world, helping enroll 475,000 displaced students in 1.1 million courses.
Governor Cuomo’s announcement is one example of how governments, colleges, institutions and employers are reimagining higher education and the reskilling of the workforce during the pandemic, which has become a critical priority.
“New York has taken a new approach to workforce development and it aims to help New Yorkers acquire the skills they need for the jobs of the future,” said Leah Belsky, Coursera’s chief enterprise officer at CNBC’s virtual Disruptor 50 Summit on Wednesday, who noted the company saw a 450% increase in traffic to its site since the pandemic began.
During the Covid period, when so many people are financially strapped and see the shift to remote work, they are keen on upskilling. “We see a focus on shorter-term learning in ways that can advance their careers,” Belsky said. “There is now laser focus among consumers on how any degree can help them get a better job.”
Rachel Carlson, co-founder and CEO of Guild Education — which ranked No. 45 on the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 list — sees the same trend. “What’s needed by more than half of the American workforce is a pathway to getting a fulfilling middle-class career,” she said at the Disruptor 50 Summit. “More employers are recognizing this, and they are offering full-time employees and furloughed employees access to online skills training and education. Many like Walmart, Discover Financial and Chipotle are paying for this education for their workers through Guild Education. It’s a way for them to retain and recruit talent.”
The transformation in higher education is profound. “Americans are redefining the value of the traditional liberal arts degree. In the future, I believe there will be more modular learning where you can tack on technical skills,” Carlson said.
According to Belsky, “There will also be more shared resources among universities and colleges where they share faculty through online offerings– especially internationally in markets where there is not enough access to education.”
She also believes that after the pandemic the majority of students will not just go back on campus. “Instead, you will see a blended approach — a percentage of courses will be given online, others will be offline,” Belsy said. “There will be more pressure on universities to provide relevant job skills.”
Sharp enrollment declines due to the pandemic have taken a severe financial toll on many colleges and universities, and the impact may last for years to come.
To that point, 67% of higher education leaders said decreased revenue from tuition and student housing are the biggest challenges they now face, according to a recent poll from consulting firm NEPC’s endowments and foundations practice.
Overall, undergraduate enrollment fell 4% this year, according to separate data from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, with incoming freshmen accounting for the biggest drop — sinking 16% from last fall.
For many colleges and universities, the consequences could be severe, according to Sam Pollack, a partner in NEPC’s Endowments and Foundations practice.
“The coronavirus pandemic created the most severe liquidity crisis higher education has faced since the global financial crisis,” he said.
As many schools moved to a hybrid approach to education, with a combination of in-person and online classes, the number of students living on campuses is also down substantially.
Nearly three-quarters of those polled by NEPC said occupancy in school-owned housing — another a critical source of revenue — declined this year, and about one-quarter said it decreased more than 50%.
Even before the global pandemic caused craters in the economy, some institutions were facing financial hardship after years of deep cuts in state funding for higher education.
Already, universities have furloughed thousands of employees and announced revenue losses in the hundreds of millions. Some have even cut academic programs that were once central to a liberal arts education in order to stay afloat.
NEPC polled about 50 higher education executives from colleges and universities across the country. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center collects data from more than 3,600 post-secondary institutions.
It’s impossible to tell without a test. Influenza and COVID-19 have such similar symptoms, you may need to get tested to know what’s making you miserable.
Body aches, sore throat, fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches are symptoms shared by the two.
One difference? People with the flu typically feel sickest during the first week of illness. With COVID-19, people may feel the worst during the second or third week, and they may be sicker for a longer period.
Another difference: COVID-19 is more likely than the flu to cause a loss of taste or smell. But not everyone experiences that symptom, so it’s not a reliable way to tell the viruses apart.
That leaves testing, which will become more important as flu season ramps up this fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Doctors will need to know test results to determine the best treatment.
It’s also possible to be infected with both viruses at the same time, said Dr. Daniel Solomon, an infectious diseases expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Whether you get tested for one or both viruses may depend on how available tests are and which viruses are circulating where you live, he said.
“Right now we are not seeing community transmission of influenza, so widespread testing for the flu is not yet recommended,” Solomon said.
Both the flu and coronavirus spread through droplets from the nose and mouth. Both can spread before people know they are sick. The flu has a shorter incubation period — meaning after infection it can take one to four days to feel sick — compared to the coronavirus, which can take two to 14 days from infection to symptoms.
On average, COVID-19 is more contagious than flu. But many people with COVID-19 don’t spread the virus to anyone, while a few people spread it to many others. These “superspreader events” are more common with COVID-19 than flu, Solomon said.
Preventing the flu starts with an annual flu shot tailored to the strains of the flu virus that are circulating. Health officials would like to see record numbers of people get flu shots this year so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with two epidemics at once.
There’s no vaccine yet for COVID-19, although several candidates are in the final testing stages.
Precautions against COVID-19 — masks, social distancing, hand-washing — also slow the spread of the flu, so health officials hope continued vigilance could lessen the severity of this year’s flu season.
The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.