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After COVID spike, students ordered off JMU campus return home

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 10:34 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - At James Madison University, Brooke Hepinstall had her dorm room just the way she liked it. The ceiling was lined with LED lights; the walls covered in posters. It was the perfect start to the freshman’s college experience.

Almost.

“I moved my whole life into my dorm, and was ready to live there for the following four months,” she said.

Now, very much ahead of schedule, Hepinstall is back home in Botetourt County.

“It was a whole mess,” she said.

Hepinstall is just one of hundreds of on-campus students who were told a week ago they had to be out of their dorms by 5 p.m. Monday, as coronavirus cases at the university spiked.

In total, JMU is reporting 559 students and four faculty and staff have tested positive since August 17. That’s almost twice as many cases as nearby UVA, which has a similar enrollment, all in just the first two weeks of school.

The move means most students, including Hepinstall, will be taking classes online.

“All my professors are doing their best,” she said, “But they have thousands of students, and it’s very difficult.”

It’s now a waiting game for almost all of JMU’s 20,000-plus students. The university has pledged to get in touch with students by September 25 to update them regarding if, or when, they can return to campus.

In the meantime, a release says the university will be working closely with health officials to contain the virus, particularly “with continued testing and contact tracing efforts.”

“It’s for safety, so I can’t be mad at them,” said Hepinstall. “I just hope we go back.”

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