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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Many colleges will bring students back to campus for the spring semester, with or without widespread vaccination.

Why it matters: Several colleges that reopened campuses in the fall were tied to big outbreaks. But schools say they've learned from that experience and improved their safety protocols, and are now confident that they can manage fuller campuses.

Driving the news: Only about 35% of colleges — including both public and private institutions — will be fully or primarily online this semester, said Chris Marsicano, executive director of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College.

  • Brown University will roughly triple the number of students in campus housing, the Brown Daily Herald reports. And Harvard University will nearly double its capacity, to 3,100 individual student bedrooms.

Where it stands: Schools are implementing more rigorous safety measures, or modifying their operations, in the hopes of avoiding more outbreaks.

  • The University of North Carolina system recently announced that students will be required to get tested before they return to campus for the spring.
  • The University of Florida, which is offering more face-to-face courses despite faculty objections, is requiring all students on campus be tested every two weeks.
  • Mississippi State University delayed its spring term by five days because some students may not have quarantined during break.

The other side: Pennsylvania State University will start the spring semester online because of "extensive analysis and scenario planning given worsening virus conditions nationally and across the state indicating predictions of rising hospitalization rates in the coming weeks," the university announced Friday.

What they're saying: "It's been every campus trying the best they can to come up with their own regimen and their own system, and it's been hugely inefficient but also it's just prevented a lot of campuses that could’ve opened from opening," said John Bailey, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

  • Parties, Greek life and sports remain a challenge, but so far, the colleges that have made on-campus life work have been able to create a culture of responsibility, he said.

The bottom line: Most colleges students will not be eligible for the vaccine during spring semester, and will need serious testing efforts and social discipline to keep outbreaks from occurring.

Go deeper

L.A. becomes first county to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases

COVID-19 mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County officials said Saturday they had detected the county's first case of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom.

Why it matters: The announcement came as L.A. became the first county to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, straining the area's already overwhelmed health care system.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.