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University of Maryland cancels winter commencement amid ‘highest case counts we’ve seen this fall semester’

The University of Maryland, College Park is canceling its winter commencement and other events through Wednesday amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, according to a message sent to the community late Thursday.

The letter from university president Darryll J. Pines pointed to 98 new COVID-19 cases on campus, which he called the “highest case counts we’ve seen this fall semester.”

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The rise comes despite a nearly 100% vaccination rate, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. The University System of Maryland required all students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus this fall.

In addition to winter commencement, the university is canceling all indoor gatherings where mask-wearing can’t be strictly enforced through Wednesday. The commencement ceremonies were set to take place Tuesday and Wednesday.

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“This decision was not made lightly,” Pines wrote. “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.” Winter graduates will be invited to the spring ceremony in May.

Final examinations will continue as scheduled, but all students and faculty members must wear KN95 masks for all in-person finals. Students in on-campus housing should plan to leave within 24 hours of their final exams.

Fitness facilities will close Wednesday, reopening Jan. 3 with limited hours, and basketball, volleyball and racquetball will be suspended “immediately,” Pines wrote.

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