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In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Cal Poly University Housing has implemented a number of changes for students planning to live on campus. Cal Poly plans to house no more than 5,150 students, as opposed to the typical 8,500 students, President Jeffrey Armstrong wrote in a campus-wide email.

As of Thursday, Aug. 27, 4,253 students had signed up to live in the dorms, Armstrong said at a town hall. 

“Students are still making decisions about deferring their fall housing to winter quarter, so not all spaces may be occupied,” University Housing Marketing Coordinator Julia Bluff said.

Cal Poly recommended that students defer their housing if they have a safe place to live or if they do not have in-person classes in the fall. This would allow the university to make room for those with in-person classes, students with visas and those who do not have a safe and secure permanent residence. 

On-campus move-in is taking place over 10 days, starting on Sept. 3 and ending on Sept. 13. Week of Welcome (WOW) is being held in a hybrid format during the last four days of move-in. 

Students living on campus will have quite a different experience than those in years past. All rooms will only be occupied by one person, as opposed to the traditional doubles, triples and quads.

Disinfecting efforts will increase in order to follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, Bluff said. 

“Custodians will focus on all common areas that are accessible, like lobbies, kitchens, residence hall bathrooms, and vending areas,” Bluff said. “We will not be cleaning the inside of apartments to limit any unnecessary exposure.”

Students are encouraged to bring cleaning supplies and to continuously clean their living spaces as well as common touch-points such as doorknobs. Signs reminding students to social distance, wear masks, wash hands and keep gatherings small are posted around living areas. 

The university requires all students living on campus to test negative for COVID-19 72 hours prior to their return. Those unable to access testing can still move into the dorms, and the campus health center will help them find a test in San Luis Obispo.

Campus Health and Wellbeing is equipped to administer at least 600 tests a day and has developed contact tracing in order to prevent potential outbreaks.

The purpose of testing all residents is to find out how many people have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, and prevent them from spreading the virus, Medical Director of Dignity Health California Central Coast Laboratory Services Kevin Ferguson said in a town hall on Aug. 27. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 while living in the dorms, they will be quarantined in a single dorm, or in a separate space with other students who’ve tested positive for the virus, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Health and Wellbeing Tina Hadaway-Mellis said at the Aug. 27 town hall. 

An isolation team will deliver meals and do laundry for students in quarantine, Hadaway-Mellis said.

Health officials will decide on a case-by-case basis if students who test positive are allowed to return to their permanent residence to isolate. They would not be able to take a plane, bus or train home, County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said at the town hall. 

Some students who plan to live on campus said they realize how different their experience will be and are trying to make sense of the campus guidelines that frequently change.

Biomedical engineering freshman from San Diego, Emma Carringella, said she was unsure whether she would live on campus, despite move-in starting in less than a week. 

“I feel like it will be much more challenging to meet people coming in as a freshman during the pandemic,” Caringella said. “I’ll have to find a good balance between being safe and making friends, and I honestly have no idea what that will look like.” 

Caringella said despite the uncertainties of fall quarter, she is motivated to remain optimistic by planning to surf almost every day as well as exploring the town of San Luis Obispo. 

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