President Elam shares some of the impressive health and safety work accomplished by our community.

Dear Oxy Community,

A year ago this week marked the beginning of the pandemic’s impact on Oxy and colleges across the country. To be sure, declining case counts, growing supply of vaccines and the recent emergence of Los Angeles County from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier are cause for optimism. The return to more in-person activity and campus life as we typically know it feels closer than it has been in quite awhile. Yet, we also know that the road back to some form of normalcy will take time. There are still challenges ahead, and many key questions to address. In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to actively consult with the Oxy community about our response to the pandemic and provide regular updates as we look to the future with a renewed sense of hope.

Today, I simply want to share some of the impressive health and safety work accomplished by our community. Since last March, even though much of our operation has been remote, it has taken a tremendous effort to protect the safety of those who have been working and living on campus. I want to thank Sara Semal, senior director of wellness, and all of the staff that have supported our COVID-19 testing efforts to date. I also want to thank all of the students, staff and faculty that have regularly completed daily health checks while living or working on campus, participating in the testing protocol, and faithfully observing our masking and social distancing requirements. It will take continued vigilance from all of us to successfully navigate through to the end of the pandemic. Even as we look ahead, I would like the entire campus community to be aware of our collective achievement in getting us to this point:


  • This semester, we are averaging about 1,300 tests per week covering staff, faculty and students living on and off campus. Results are turned around in less than 24 hours.

  • Our positivity rate is extremely low--well below that of Los Angeles averages. We had zero positives out of 7,800 tests conducted since February 1. Since we began testing last fall, we have only seen 10 positive test results and had a positivity rate of 0.09% (that equates to about 1 out every 1,000 tests coming back positive). This is a testament to the strength of our community and the extraordinary care that each of us has demonstrated for our colleagues, classmates and friends.  

    • As a point of comparison, positivity rates in L.A. County are currently right around 2%, after spiking above 20% in early January. 


  • Thanks to the effective advocacy of Sara and her staff, Emmons has been authorized to administer the COVID vaccines. We received our first shipment last week, and Emmons was able to arrange vaccinations for 150 faculty, staff and student employees.

  • Additionally, through a partnership with City Councilmember Kevin DeLeon, vaccines were made available to an additional 300 Oxy community members earlier this month.

  • Based on commitments we have received from the county regarding future shipments, we are confident we will be able to vaccinate all staff, faculty and student employees who have not been able to obtain them elsewhere. We strongly encourage all eligible members of the Oxy community to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity presents itself, whether on or off campus.

Thank you for all your efforts to keep our community well and safe. I urge all of you to remain diligent in adhering to health and safety measures. This will be an important part of the equation as we work towards reopening our campus.

Very best,
President Elam