Updated COVID-19 Protocols

President Elam shares updates to the College’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, effective Monday, July 12.

Dear Oxy Community,

By working together, the Oxy community has made it possible to return to in-person living, learning and working on campus this fall. For more than a year, those of you who have been on campus have adhered to Oxy’s COVID health and safety protocols. As a result, case counts were minimal in fall and spring, we held two joyous in-person Commencement ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021, and most recently students have returned to campus for annual programs such as the Summer Research Program and MSI. With regard to vaccines, which the latest data show are the most effective means of protection against the virus, your response has been extraordinary. Already, more than 90% of employees and 88% of students are fully vaccinated. And this number will only go higher as we approach our August 2 deadline set by our vaccination policy. These are numbers to be proud of, and give us confidence in our ability to operate safely as we gather again on campus.  

In mid-June, the State of California and Cal OSHA, the state agency that has oversight of workplaces, retired many of their pandemic guidelines, including those that covered higher education. As a result, we are updating the Oxy community as to what our policies will be going forward, effective Monday, July 12. The policies communicated today also incorporate the latest recommendation from L.A. County regarding the Delta variant of the virus. Please keep in mind that policies could change between now and the start of fall as we continue to respond to the latest developments. As it has done throughout the spring and early summer, the COVID Operations Group (COG) will continue to hold regular community meetings to discuss updated policy and answer questions. The next community update is later today, at 1 p.m., with Zoom details to follow in a separate message from COG.

What’s changing? Here are the headlines (details are below):

  • No social distancing requirements or capacity constraints

  • Masking:

    • No masks are required outdoors.

    • Everyone must carry a mask at all times.

    • Anyone can wear a mask wherever/whenever they want.

    • For now, masks will be required indoors regardless of vaccination status (in line with L.A. County's latest Delta variant recommendation). This could change by fall—or even sooner.

Our next phase, a return to a full in-person experience, is long-awaited and exciting to be sure. Yet we also recognize that many of you have concerns and questions as fall approaches. After 15+ months of strict rules and little in-person interaction, we are transitioning to fewer rules and more in-person interaction. While the pandemic is waning, it’s not yet over. This means that for fall to be successful, it will take more than just following the rules. It will require a daily reminder that we are indeed a community. I ask that we continue to uphold what we all recognize as the hallmarks of the Oxy ethos—mutual respect, empathy, and understanding, all based on shared values that include trust, integrity, discipline, and selflessness—as we move back into residence halls, classrooms and offices and readjust to living, working and learning together as a community.

More specifically, regarding campus policies:

Clearance to access campus: As we communicated previously, all students, faculty and staff must either submit proof of vaccination, or if unvaccinated with a valid exemption must be in the testing protocol and complete the daily health check to be cleared for campus access. The office of the Dean of the College (for faculty), supervisors (for staff) and the office of the Dean of Students (for students) will be notified when a person in their area of responsibility has not been cleared. Any student, faculty, or staff member who is not vaccinated and is not cleared for campus is not permitted access to campus facilities until clearance is restored.

Social distancing and density: Oxy is adopting the June 15 state guidelines, which means that social distancing and density limitations are no longer required. This means capacity can return to normal for all indoor spaces on campus, including academic buildings, classrooms, workspaces and other facilities. In the coming days and weeks, you’ll receive separate communications with additional details as departments such as Athletics, Campus Dining and the Library scale up their operations. 

Masking/Face Coverings: In light of Los Angeles County’s June 29 guidance regarding the Delta variant, we will, for the time being, continue our current policy of requiring masking indoors for all community members and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. We will continue to confer with county health officials and our own medical advisors to evaluate this policy between now and the start of the fall semester, as more information emerges regarding this variant and its impact in a highly vaccinated population. Public health officials at the local, state and federal level continue to affirm that vaccinations are highly effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization, even against the Delta variant.

Our current planning assumption is that by the start of the fall semester, our guidelines will mirror the current state level guidance, which would mean that vaccinated students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus would not be required to wear masks, whether indoors or outdoors. However, professors will have the option to require that all students in their classrooms wear a mask, as they would for any matter of classroom etiquette.  

Additional masking specifics:

  • All community members must have a mask on-hand at all times.

  • Any community member may wear a mask at any time regardless of vaccination status. Please respect any person’s choice or need to wear a mask.

  • In addition to indoor masking (which is currently required for all), unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks outdoors in crowded situations when physical distancing is difficult.

  • Per OSHA requirements, we will make N95 masks available to unvaccinated community members upon request.

  • Exceptions to indoor masking include:

    • When you are by yourself in a private space

    • When eating or drinking

    • When vaccinated roommates are sharing a residence hall room

    • When vaccinated employees are in a non-public, shared workspace

Visitors to Campus: As a college campus, we have different types of visitors—from friends and family, guest speakers, people using athletic facilities, prospective students and families, and more. As a general principle, visitors will no longer be required to register with the appropriate office and complete a health check—nor will the College be checking their vaccination status. Visitors will be asked to follow the current guidance that applies to students, staff and faculty and to mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Community members who host visitors are responsible for informing visitors of the applicable rules.

Travel: We are also providing health- and safety-related guidance for those of you who travel for college business and/or or plan regional events. 

  • For regional events, follow the local guidance in that area. In most cases, this will mean no capacity limits. The organizing office may elect to incorporate stricter policy than exists in that region (e.g. asking everyone to mask indoors in a state that doesn’t require indoor masking). However, that is at your discretion and should be discussed with local hosts/organizers.

  • Any College employee can travel regardless of vaccination status. Employees should follow all applicable federal and state guidelines when travelling. Unvaccinated individuals should follow the same masking guidelines on the road that would apply when they are on campus. 

  • Groups of students, staff and/or faculty travelling together by car or bus for class purposes or for athletic competition should remain masked during transport.

As we have done each semester since the start of the pandemic, we ask the Oxy community to renew its commitment to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and each other. It is crucial to our sense of community that we understand and accept our shared responsibility for keeping our community healthy. Before the start of the semester, we will share an updated student compact, as well as updated workplace guidelines for faculty and staff. If you have any questions, we encourage you to email oxy@oxy.edu, an inbox which is staffed by the Office of Marketing and Communications. 

I am so appreciative of the overwhelming support, dedication and hard work of the Oxy community throughout the past year. Together, we will continue to address and overcome any remaining obstacles as we look ahead to reconnecting and rekindling those in-person elements of the Oxy experience we hold so dear.

Very best,

President Elam