COVID Operations Update: Sept. 1, 2021


We write to provide timely updates on a number of important COVID health and safety measures.

Oxy Community:

We write to provide timely updates on a number of important COVID health and safety measures. With the first week of classes underway, our community is doing well so far. However, continued vigilance is essential, especially early in the semester, to ensure that we can continue our in-person experience.

Today’s updates cover:

  • Vaccines and protecting our community
  • Testing results and active cases
  • New outdoor masking guidelines
  • Exposure management: FAQs regarding positive cases and close contacts
  • Event resources: Checking proof of vaccination for non-Oxy attendees 

Vaccines & Protecting Our Community

Vaccines continue to be effective at mitigating spread and reducing risk of serious illness. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer pointed out this week that less than 0.02% of the fully vaccinated in the county have been hospitalized due to COVID. Yet, even vaccinated individuals can unwittingly spread the virus. This is why we must continue to protect ourselves and each other. Even though our community vaccination rate is above 98% (a result we should be proud of), we have to be cognizant of those who are immunocompromised, unable to be vaccinated or may have family at home who fall into these categories. We ask those who are not concerned about the personal health impact of COVID to consider the potentially serious consequences of isolation and quarantine that result from a positive test. It means long days of separation from friends and community. For students, it may make it more difficult to keep up on your studies. For staff, it may force you to use up sick time or vacation time, and could place an additional burden on family or colleagues while you are out.

Testing Results and Active Cases

We continue to implement a robust testing plan. Oxy’s testing results are available on our Back to Oxy website here. Last week (the week beginning Monday 8/23), which was our first full week of arrival testing for students, resulted in two PCR confirmed positive tests out of 1,196 tests, a 0.17% positivity rate. As we knew some positive tests were inevitable, we are encouraged by this small number. We also can report that as of today (September 1), Emmons is managing three active COVID cases - two students and one staff member. We are currently developing more granular tracking data for the website to include student/employee breakdowns of testing data, as well as weekly reporting of active cases. We will update the community when the COVID tracking page is updated.

New Outdoor Masking Guidelines

Now is the time to be proactive to keep our community safe and preserve the in-person experience that is the heart of the Oxy experience. Our results so far are good, but we want to reduce risk even further to keep case numbers as low as possible. With that in mind, in addition to our current guidance, we are announcing the following masking updates:

  • We strongly recommend wearing a mask outdoors at all times when social distancing is not possible. 
  • All outdoor gatherings of 50 people or more will require masking. (All indoor events already require masks). 

With the three-day holiday weekend approaching, a time for increased social interactions, we encourage all students, staff and faculty to use good judgment and maintain sound health and safety practices.

Exposure Management: FAQs regarding positive cases and close contacts

Understandably, in our first week of coming back together as a community, the most common questions we’ve heard fall under the theme of exposure management.  These include “How is Oxy managing cases?" and “What should I do if I have symptoms, or if my friend, classmate or colleague tested positive?" We’ve updated the site with new content and answers to many FAQs in this area that we hope will provide more clarity for students, faculty, and staff. These important guidelines and policies have been developed by the COVID Operations Group, with consultation from our special adviser, Dr. Kim Shriner '80 and Emmons medical staff. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with this content. (Please note that there may be exceptions to these guidelines, and guidelines might change as conditions around us change). Yet, every case is discussed with Emmons medical staff to determine the appropriate course of action.

While there are many resources and FAQs in this new section, we want to highlight some of the important headlines:

  • The question of being “exposed” or “potentially exposed” to a COVID positive individual -- and what steps should be taken when that determination is made -- can vary based on circumstances. While some general principles apply, the Oxy community should rely on the professional judgement of Emmons medical staff (which utilizes the consultation of Dr. Shriner when necessary, as well as the latest guidance from public health agencies) to make those determinations. 
  • When contact tracing for a COVID positive case occurs, Emmons staff will identify close contacts to communicate next steps. Although it is not up to individuals to self-identify as close contact, anyone who is concerned about possible exposure is welcome to come to the testing center (currently on the 2nd floor of AGC) for guidance. More information about these distinctions and the corresponding actions are available in the update.
  • If you are unsure about a possible exposure, you can always come in for a test (waiting 3-5 days from the day of the exposure, if known - or immediately if you are experiencing symptoms. 
  • The update also includes clear guidelines on when a student can continue to attend class, and when they shouldn’t. Any student that has been contacted by Emmons through contact tracing will be given clear direction on whether they can attend class and under what conditions. Students do not need to consult their professors on whether they should attend, and individual faculty members should not provide direction on whether students should be in class or not.  
  • For easy access, you can link right to the individual sections on the new Exposure Management page, including:  

It is important to recognize that we are in a dynamic environment. Conditions around us and on our campus can change week to week - and our policies and guidance may change with it.

Event Resources: Checking proof of vaccination for non-Oxy attendees

Last week we announced updated event guidance, which included the requirement of proof of vaccination for non-Oxy attendees of indoor events. To support event organizers on campus, we’ve updated the website to include specific resources regarding event management and guidance for checking proof of vaccination. Anyone organizing events should read this information carefully. Some headlines to share:

  • Event organizers are responsible for checking vaccination status, and thus should take into account staffing considerations and whether having non-Oxy attendees is critical to the nature of the event.
  • Pre-event communication to attendees is critical.
  • The three acceptable methods of validating vaccination status are: digital ID (QR code), showing a vaccination card, or attestation.
  • We cannot retain or store vaccination records of attendees.

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.

Marty Sharkey

 

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