MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The University of Minnesota is planning to return to full on-campus operations this fall on all five of its campuses. The announcement Friday morning coincided with a major announcement from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz loosening COVID-19 restrictions with a significant impact on all corners of Minnesota life.
The U of M has been operating in a hybrid model, with in-person classes and online classes during the 2020-2021 school year. A statement from the university said the return to campus operations in fall "will be more similar to those seen before the pandemic" in both academics and activities.
"If you work hard you can get the same academic experience online, but you cannot get the same social experience," said U of M junior Nico Whitlock.
That experience is about to return again across campus from classrooms to locker rooms.
"We are back to normal in the fall and we could not be more excited because of course not only is this exciting for faculty, staff and student,s but it means that we're all getting healthier and safer and we're excited about that too," said Gabel.
Full on-campus operations will return this fall to all of the campuses in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester. It comes after epidemiologist Michael Osterholm told the Board of Regents that safety measures have worked.
"We have not had any documented outbreaks in a teaching facility, in classrooms in resident halls, in the apartment buildings... which I think is a real testament put in place with the students," said Dr. Osterholm.
Even incoming students are excited about the change, all at a time when Governor Tim Walz is reopening more business activities and events.
"We should be very optimistically hosting fans at the stadium [for football games] and cheering on the team to victory after victory," said Gabel. "I mean that's my plan."
For now, students and faculty still must wear masks and social distance on campus, but the university is already looking ahead to fall when students and staff can start re-discovering campus life.
"Even in this optimistic time we have to listen to public health advice, and that advice may change, but given the projections we have right now, we're really looking forward to things feeling really good," added Gabel.
Gabel says the university will continue to provide wide access to testing on all of its campuses. Until further notice, face coverings and social distancing will still be required on campus. COVID-19 testing will also remain available to all students, faculty and staff.