An update on Oxy’s plans for fall, including testing information and answers to some commonly asked questions we’ve heard from the campus community.
Dear Oxy Community:
As we move closer to the start of the fall semester and a return to in-person activities on campus, I write today to update you on our plans, share some updates about testing, and provide answers to some commonly asked questions we’ve heard from the campus community.
As you may know or have observed, the return to campus is already underway. The Multicultural Summer Institute, Summer Research Program, and Upward Bound all have been operating fully or mostly in person. Many of our staff who had been working remotely during the pandemic have started working on campus. I too have been in my office regularly during the past couple of weeks, and it has been wonderful to see more of you in person. International students and some of our student-athletes will begin arriving shortly with the remainder of students returning later this month. With great excitement and anticipation, our Oxy community is looking forward to resuming the person-to-person interactions at the heart of an Occidental education -- in the residence halls, classrooms, labs, studios, athletic fields and across campus. While we may still make use of remote tools in various settings, our stated intention is to prioritize in-person learning and co-curricular opportunities for Oxy students consistent with mutual commitments to our health and safety protocols.
Amidst the joyous anticipation, it is vital to note that the pandemic is still with us. The surge of cases in Los Angeles County and in many parts of the country caused by the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 cannot be ignored. The good news is that our health and safety plans, based on the latest scientific evidence, put us in a strong position for fall. Recent data, as well as public health officials at the federal, state and local levels, and our own health and safety team including infectious disease specialist Dr. Kimberly Shriner ‘80, continue to affirm that the vaccines are highly effective in protecting us from the virus.
Our return to in-person instruction is based on a variety of measures to support you and your safety. They start with our mandatory vaccination policy that has produced a remarkably high 97% vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff. Our policy also requires strict testing protocols for unvaccinated individuals with valid exemptions. In addition, we are following Los Angeles County guidelines requiring mask-wearing while inside by everyone, regardless of vaccination status. We also just completed an accelerated inspection and upgrade program for all campus air circulation systems to ensure we have safely ventilated buildings. Taken together, these policies give us confidence in our plans for the fall--as does the consideration and care that members of the Oxy community have always shown for each other. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to monitor the latest scientific findings, follow the guidance of public health officials, and adjust our policies as conditions require.
As a case in point, given the recent developments with the Delta variant, the Covid Operations Group (COG) is currently reviewing our testing protocols for vaccinated individuals in keeping with our ongoing effort to minimize COVID transmission on our campus. Our intended course of action is to test all new and returning students soon after arrival, within approximately 3-5 days. We are also considering a range of ongoing symptomatic and/or surveillance testing options for faculty, staff and students. We are finalizing the scope and support operations for the new testing protocols, and will have updates for the community soon. With Sara Semal’s upcoming departure, we are working rapidly to make sure that we are adequately staffed and that the plans for testing and other COVID-related procedures operate as smoothly as possible.
Lastly, the COG team has updated a number of FAQs on our Back to Oxy website to share with the community. The new FAQs are intended to address questions and concerns that you may have as you are now engaging more deeply in preparations for the fall. The rise of the Delta variant has only increased the need for more information. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with additional questions you may have that are not addressed here.
We will continue to update the Oxy community on a regular basis, including a faculty information session tomorrow and a similar staff session on Monday, August 9. Details will be sent separately for those meetings.
I look forward to meeting more of you in person this semester. We will work to build community, and gather together responsibly, as we weather this stage of the pandemic and look ahead to a time when this remarkable period in Oxy’s history is behind us.
All the best,