As UND begins a new semester dealing with the coronavirus, UND President Andrew Armacost says students, families and employees need to continue with mitigation efforts before the pandemic can be over.

“Let's be done with it, but we have to do it the right way and make sure that we keep people safe,” he said.

Armacost, along with a number of other campus leaders, spent time answering questions from students and family members during a virtual townhall meeting Thursday evening, Jan. 14. The university hosted other townhalls last semester.

Throughout the discussion, several attendees asked if restrictions – such as the campus mask requirement and those related to dining and housing – might be stripped back with lowered case counts and the relaxing of some measures statewide.

“That sense of urgency is natural. I think we all feel it, we want it to be over,” he said. “But we're finding ways to connect with each other, unlike we've done in the past. But let's apply that same sense of urgency to do the things that we need to do to get out of this.”

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He said he hopes to see the same sense of urgency for people to get tested, or vaccinated for the virus, while continuing the mitigation efforts until the pandemic can be over.

Another attendee questioned why her daughter should continue to attend UND with all of the changes that have been made, along with the additional stressors going along with classes and other aspects of campus.

Armacost said university leaders have also received feedback from parents who believe UND has taken the correct measures to combat COVID-19 over the past several months.

“We're trying to strike that balance,” he said.

Armacost said the university worked hard last semester to keep the campus open, despite case rises in late August and early September, and again in August.

“We fought like mad to keep the campus open, to not revert to sending people home,” he said. “We debated it. We came up with what we thought was reasonable. The systems we have in place really held tight.”

Among other topics covered in the discussion were spring break and upcoming commencement ceremonies.

Although some universities, including the University of Minnesota Crookston, are opting to cancel spring break this year – instead giving students time off throughout the semester or ending the semester a week early – UND plans to have a spring break.

Meloney Linder, vice president for marketing and communications at UND, said the university decided earlier this week that the spring graduation ceremony would once again be held online. All commencement ceremonies since last May have been held virtually due to coronavirus precautions.

No decision has been made on the summer commencement ceremony, Linder said.

Upcoming UND coronavirus townhalls will be held in March and May.