Emory University's president said Tuesday the school is switching to virtual classes to start the spring semester because of a national surge in COVID cases fueled by the omicron variant.

In a letter to the university community, President Gregory Fenves said Emory will transition back to in-person learning on Jan. 31 if conditions permit.

The switch to remote learning applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional courses. Residence halls will remain open, though students are encouraged to delay their return to campus.

"I understand that beginning the semester with remote learning and teaching is inconvenient, particularly for students and families who have already made travel arrangements, faculty who have planned in-person coursework, and staff who have made countless adjustments to their protocols throughout the past two years." Fenves said. "But we must be adaptable during this surge so we can continue our important work — learning, teaching, creating, and discovering — in the face of this ever-evolving pandemic."

Emory students, faculty and staff are required to get a booster shot by Jan. 19.

COVID-19 infections in the Atlanta area, where Emory is located, are climbing rapidly. The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Georgia rose to nearly 8,700 a day on Monday, according to the state Public Health Department. That's nearing the peaks that Georgia saw in infection numbers in early January and early September.