OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The University of Nebraska plans to expand its coronavirus testing as part of an effort to bring more students to campus for in-person classes next semester, an official said Monday.

President Ted Carter said the university plans to hold in-person classes in late January and may require students to get tested for COVID-19 before they return to campus in the hopes of preventing an outbreak.

“You can expect more testing to be done,” he said during a news conference with Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Carter said the plans might differ at the university's campuses in Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney.

The university offered in-person and online classes during the fall semester, and Carter said he was pleased with how it was handled. He said student applications for the fall 2021 semester are up 7% from where they were at the same time last year, and the university will continue to focus on affordability with its ongoing tuition freeze and the Nebraska Promise program, which provides scholarships for students in need.

Carter said he sees potential in “hybrid programs” that combine in-person and online instruction, but he hopes to see more in-person students in classes.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Nebraska increased Sunday for the first time since late last month. The net increase of 11 patients brought the total to 768 and ended a daily decline in hospitalizations since Nov. 30. That total is significantly below the record of 987 set on Nov. 20, but it is more than triple where it was at the start of October, when 227 people were hospitalized.

Officials said 19% of the state's hospital beds are filled by COVID-19 patients. That remains below the 25% threshold where Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he would impose additional social distancing restrictions.

The state reported 1,266 new confirmed virus cases and 11 new deaths Sunday, raising its totals since the pandemic started to 139,834 cases and 1,205 deaths.

Nebraska's rate of new cases remained the sixth-highest in the nation, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over the past week, one in every 146 people in Nebraska was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska decreased over the past two weeks, from roughly 2,314 new cases per day for the seven-day period that ended Nov. 22 to about 1,892 new cases per day for the seven-day period that ended Sunday.


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