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University of Utah to halt in-person classes ahead of debate

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has so far resisted issuing a statewide mask mandate but recently said he’ll consider new measures.

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The University of Utah will stop in-person classes for two weeks as the state deals with a coronavirus spike shortly before a planned U.S. vice-presidential debate, officials said Monday.

The temporary move to online remote learning comes as Utah during a surge that began after schools and colleges resumed classes. It hit a new high on Friday with a record number of confirmed cases in a single day. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has so far resisted issuing a statewide mask mandate but recently said he’ll consider new measures.

Meanwhile, the university is preparing to host a high-profile national event: An Oct. 7 debate between Vice-President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Sen. Kamala Harris.

Officials with the university and nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said in late July they planned to hold the debate with an audience, though significantly smaller than in years past.

The institution had already planned to shift to online coursework around the time of the debate, and has now decided to extend that plan. It includes employees working from home and many buildings being closed to the public. The two-week “circuit breaker” begins Sept. 27.

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