PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia State University will no longer allow students to return to campus for classes in September, instead moving forward with a fully virtual start to the academic year after watching campuses reopen only to close due to coronavirus outbreaks, according to officials.

Makola M. Abdullah, president of the historically Black university in Petersburg, announced the decision in a message to the campus community this week.

“We have determined that the implications and risks of returning to campus in the midst of this growing pandemic could potentially have harmful or even deadly ramifications,” the letter stated, later adding that the experiences of other schools showed "evidence that we cannot prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if we allow them to return to campus.”

Abdullah added that university officials also assessed other factors, such as the school's demographics, in reconsidering their plan.

“VSU serves a population that is at higher risk of COVID-19,” Abdullah said. “More than half of all cases and deaths are in the black community. We recognize that despite our heartfelt efforts, meticulous planning and precise preparations, this virus is relentless.”

The university previously said in August that it would begin its first month of classes remotely, before welcoming students back to campus in mid-September.


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