A year ago, UND students went on spring break and didn’t know when they’d return to campus.

Just days before, North Dakota had its first case of COVID-19 and just as students were packing their bags to leave campus for a week, much of the state was shutting down to control the spread of the virus.

Now, a year later, college students are again leaving campus for spring break but this time with a better understanding of the virus and a plan to return in a few days’ time.

“When I look back on the year, it's just with enormous pride of how the campus responded,” Armacost said.

Last spring break, faculty and staff spent days quickly pivoting courses for online use. Across the North Dakota University System some 11,000 courses were moved online in two weeks. Courses at UND were adjusted for the summer and fall semesters, as well as into the ongoing semester.

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The campus also implemented a number of preventative measures, including a mask requirement, physical distancing recommendations and many hand sanitizing stations. Students who live in the residence halls didn’t have roommates this year and events – including commencement and Wake Up to UND – were moved online.

This spring break, campus officials are still encouraging students to be careful when they travel to prevent any spread of any potential virus variants.

Since last semester UND has had around 2,000 positive cases related to campus, including students and employees. Case numbers were particularly high at the start of the fall semester and then again in November when numbers peaked to a “dangerous level” while statewide cases soared, Rosy Dub, director of UND’s COVID medical response, said during a recent UND virtual townhall.

Case numbers on campus have been down compared to last semester. According to UND’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been around 100 cases since the beginning of January.

In the last year, Armacost said the campus has learned a lot.

“When I looked at this spring break, I say, ‘Wow, we're in a completely different place,’” he said. “We've learned a lot about the pandemic about how to effectively respond to it. I wish we were further along in vaccinations but holy smokes, look at where we came. In under a year, vaccines were created from nothing to now have them distributed widely across the United States and here in North Dakota. It's absolutely stunning.”