University of Maryland cancels all winter commencement activities due to COVID

The University of Maryland at College Park announced Thursday that it is canceling all winter commencement activities, including the main graduation ceremony scheduled for Dec. 20, because of a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases.

“This decision was not made lightly,” University President Darryll J. Pines wrote in a letter. “We know how important this time is for our winter graduates and their families, but our first responsibility must continue to be the health and well-being of our community. All winter graduates will be invited to the spring ceremony in May.”

The cancellation also applies to all college, school and department ceremonies scheduled for Dec. 21 and 22.

The university’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 98 positive cases from university testing, plus an additional 12 self-reported cases (the results are from tests taken since Monday).

“We expect to see another high number of cases from today’s testing,” the letter said. “These are the highest case counts we’ve seen this fall semester.”

In the wake of the rising numbers, the university announced several other measures effective immediately:

  • All indoor social gatherings where mask-wearing cannot be strictly enforced should be canceled through Dec. 22.
  • All dining halls and the Stamp Student Union food court will transition to grab-and-go options only. RecWell facilities will maintain their final exam hours of operation schedule through Dec. 21; however, basketball, volleyball and racquetball activities will be suspended immediately. All RecWell facilities will be closed Dec. 22 to Jan. 2, with a limited reopening tentatively scheduled for Jan. 3.
  • Students who live in residence halls will be required to depart campus 24 hours after their final on-campus exam.
  • Final examinations will continue as scheduled, but all students and faculty must wear KN95 masks for all in-person finals. KN95 masks may be obtained from the Stamp Student Union Information Desk.

“We are all grappling with the strain and anxiety of this surge. None of this is easy,” Pines wrote. “Our decisions will continue to be informed by diligent tracking of cases, positivity rates and other trends, and guided by health professionals.”

Several other area universities are dealing with COVID outbreaks, including Georgetown University, where one of the first cases of the omicron variant in D.C. was detected.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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