A message from President Elam on updates to the College’s COVID-19 testing protocols for the Fall 2021 semester.

Dear Oxy Community:

We write to share updates on the College’s COVID-19 testing protocols for the upcoming semester.

As you know, cases of the Delta variant have been spiking in Los Angeles County and around the country, with most of these cases occurring among the unvaccinated. Consequently, Oxy's strict vaccination policy, together with other common-sense measures including our indoor masking requirement, are critical safety measures as we return to in-person activities. However, the data shows that we can expect a small number of so-called "breakthrough cases" among the vaccinated on campus. Our goal is to minimize community transmission and reduce the possibility of such cases.

Vaccines and masking continue to be the most effective means of preventing transmission. Testing is an additional important safety measure to help prevent community spread. In May we communicated that unvaccinated students, faculty and staff with approved exemptions will be required to be tested twice weekly. With a remarkably high vaccination rate above 97% and growing, there will be very few community members in this category.

In consultation with Oxy’s medical advisers, including Dr. Kim Shriner ‘80, infectious disease specialist at Huntington Hospital, we will be expanding our testing program to start the fall semester. We will continue to closely monitor the state of COVID around us as well as our own results (which will be shared online) and adjust our testing protocols as needed. As conditions are evolving, we want to be clear as to those elements that are definite and those that are still being planned.

What We Know

Arrival Testing: All students will be tested after their arrival on campus (as communicated by President Elam last week). With some student-athletes and other early arrivals already on campus, student testing in the Cannon Rotunda on the second floor of the AGC will begin this Monday, August 16 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Testing dates and times for first years and sophomores will be coordinated with Orientation leaders as part of Orientation. All students are required to be tested no later than five days after their arrival. If students test positive, Emmons staff will also follow established exposure management procedures, conducting contact tracing and following established College isolation and quarantine protocols. Additional communication will be sent to students next week with more information about testing and hours of operation at Emmons. 

What We Intend

In addition to arrival testing for students, we are planning to expand the scope of our testing protocols as follows: 

  • Any student, staff or faculty member exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19

  • Any student, staff or faculty member concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19

  • Any student, staff or faculty member who wishes to opt in to weekly testing 

  • Select student cohorts (to be determined) participating in programs where masking will not always be possible 

  • Random sampling of vaccinated individuals to monitor spread

We will follow up with additional details before the start of the semester explaining how the new testing protocols will work (including when opt-ins begin). In the meantime, you can submit any comments or questions to oxy@oxy.edu, an inbox staffed by the Marketing & Communications team. 

We are eagerly looking forward to the start of the semester. We believe these extra measures will help ensure that we transition back to campus as safely as possible, which will lead to a successful and healthy start for everyone. We will, of course, continue to keep the community apprised of relevant health and safety updates as we move ahead. 

Very best,

President Elam  

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
Sara Semal, Senior Director - Emmons Wellness Center
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