COVID Operations Update: Health & Safety


As we approach the first day of classes on August 30, the COVID Operations Group provides a number of timely updates on related health and safety measures.

As we approach the first day of classes on Monday, we write to provide a number of timely updates on COVID health and safety measures. All of this information will also be available on this website. Today's updates cover:

  • Oxy’s latest vaccination rate, vaccination policy, and boosters
  • Testing results and updated testing protocols
  • Mask policy clarifications and resources
  • Updated event policies 
  • Information about new tented spaces on campus
  • Booster shots

Vaccination rate and vaccination policy

  • Your support of Oxy’s vaccine policy has resulted in an impressive 98% vaccination rate on campus across students, staff and faculty.
  • With Monday’s FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, consistent with our previously stated policy from May 25, Oxy will only allow exemptions for medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. Those who declined for personal reasons will need to submit proof of being fully vaccinated by October 4. 
  • Independent contractors and volunteers who are hired or invited to Oxy must show proof of vaccination.
  • The College is aware of the CDC’s recommendation regarding “booster shots” to be administered eight months after a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. We do not have any new information at this time regarding whether Oxy will administer booster shots. We do expect them to be widely available at local pharmacies and other locations, and will continue to keep the community updated. Please note that the eight-month timeframe means boosters are not needed until late this year for those community members who were vaccinated in the spring.

Testing Results

As communicated on August 13, Oxy began testing all students upon their arrival to campus. (First-year move in was on Monday, sophomores move in on Thursday and juniors and seniors begin to arrive on Saturday. Many student athletes and international students arrived last week). Test result data is updated regularly on our website and can be found here.

Updated Testing Protocols

Last week’s message also promised an update on additional testing measures. Vaccination and masking continue to be the most effective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID. A sound testing protocol further supports this strategy and can help identify cases early. 

  • Two types of ongoing testing remain the same. All unvaccinated individuals will continue to be tested twice weekly. In addition, through our exposure management process, any time a positive case is reported, Emmons staff conducts contact tracing and tests individuals determined to have had significant exposure to COVID-positive individuals.    
  • While the CDC does not recommend regular surveillance testing for vaccinated individuals, the College is taking extra precautions given current conditions. With that in mind, we are instituting the following additional protocols. (Keep in mind that protocols may change throughout the semester as conditions evolve):
    • After completing the first round of arrival testing for students early next week, we will conduct a second round of arrival testing to further establish a baseline early in the semester.  Emmons will contact students to come in for a second test 7-10 days after their first test. Students do not need to wait for an email from Emmons, and may come in for their second test beginning Wednesday 9/2 (and no later than Friday 9/12).
    • Any faculty, staff or student may “opt in” for once-weekly testing. No appointment is necessary, and you may come to the testing center, currently located on the 2nd floor of AGC in the Cannon Rotunda, any day during posted testing hours. To help us with staffing and scheduling, we ask that any community member interested in this option complete this form to indicate your preferred testing days. Opt-in testing will begin Monday 8/30 for faculty and staff, and Monday 9/14 for students.
    • Any faculty, staff or student who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or is concerned about a potential exposure may come in for a one-time test. Emmons staff will talk with you to determine what test is needed.
    • Cohorts that participate in Oxy-sponsored activities that by their nature are required to be performed unmasked will be included in weekly testing until further notice. Student athletes (during their competitive season), and some music and theater students among others, will likely fall into this category. The College will be working with Athletics, as well as faculty in charge of these particular programs, to finalize these protocols.

Mask Updates

In addition to vaccinations, masking is an important mitigation tool to protect against the Delta variant. As our campus population rebuilds this week, we want to remind everyone of Oxy's masking requirements:

  • All community members should carry a mask at all times.
  • Masks are required indoors, the only exceptions being roommates in a res hall and when you are alone in a private office. 

You can find more information online with details on proper mask wearing, acceptable/unacceptable masks and printable signs for classrooms and office spaces. In addition, Dean Sternberg will be following up directly with academic departments with additional information regarding faculty mask distribution for teaching purposes.

Campus Events

Those planning events should be aware of the following guidance, in place until further notice:

  • During the surge we want to take extra precautions when events involve non-Oxy participants. We have updated our event guidance accordingly, making a key distinction between Oxy-only events and those that will bring visitors from off-campus, particularly those where off-campus visitors are the key audience for the event. Events aimed at external audiences will require proof of vaccination.
  • As communicated in our August 11 Dining Service update, food will not be served by Campus Dining catering at indoor meetings and events. Likewise, organizers should not order food on their own. Food should only be offered at events and meetings when it can be set up and consumed outside. 

Tents as Flexible Outdoor Spaces

With our near-universal vaccination rate, indoor masking policies, and sufficient building airflow/ventilation, we and our medical advisors are confident in the safety of all of our classrooms (see Dr. Shriner’s responses to questions from community members). However, as Dean Sternberg announced to faculty August 17, tents without side walls have been erected in a number of locations as flexible spaces for teaching or faculty meetings with students. Priority will be given to performing arts classes and others whose subject matter requires unmasked activities. Any tent can be used for studying or other informal purposes when not in use for teaching or dining during peak hours. Tents will be listed on the Master Calendar as reservable spaces for classrooms and other functions.

Thank you for your continued adherence to Oxy’s health and safety guidelines, and doing your part to protect yourself and our community. Community members are encouraged to submit any comments or questions to oxy@oxy.edu, an inbox staffed by the Marketing & Communications team.

COVID Operations Group

Harry J. Elam, Jr., President
Sharla Fett, Faculty Council President, Professor of American History
Rob Flot, Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students
Amos Himmelstein, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
Nora Kahn, General Counsel
Marty Sharkey, Vice President of Communications & Institutional Initiatives
Wendy Sternberg, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
James Uhrich, Vice President for Information Technology Services & Chief Information Officer