Cal Poly will focus on containing the spread of COVID-19 through sanitation measures and required COVID-19 tests for students before moving into residence halls on campus in response to concerns about plans for Fall quarter
“Because the coronavirus has become endemic in our communities, our approach has to be one of containment and risk minimization rather than attempting to prevent any transmission at all, which is no longer realistic,” President Jeffrey Armstrong wrote in a campus-wide email Tuesday evening.
Congregate living facilities, such as residence halls, pose a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, Armstrong wrote.
To prevent COVID-19 from spreading into the dorms, students are required to present a negative test result for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours of arriving on campus, according to the email.
If students cannot obtain a test within this time frame on their own, the university will work with students to obtain a test over a short time period, the email read.
Campus Health and Wellbeing can conduct more than 600 COVID-19 tests per day in the Health Center, given no delays in the reagent supply chain, according to the email.
“That kind of large-scale (relative to our population), quick-turnaround testing, coupled with robust contact tracing and the ability to isolate students found to be contagious, are essential to preventing inevitable transmissions from becoming a local outbreak,” the email read.
The university will also minimize this risk of COVID-19 by housing students in single rooms, requiring the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in public areas and prohibiting the use of indoor group spaces, the email read.
University Housing will be limited to single rooms, according to the email. No more than 5,150 students will live in on-campus housing.
First-year students will have access to their block schedule for fall quarter starting Wednesday, Aug. 26 The university asks students to defer housing if they do not have in-person classes this fall and feel comfortable taking virtual classes at home, according to the email.
“On-campus housing and in-person classes are part of our DNA as a comprehensive, polytechnic university and are inextricably linked due to the nature of our Learn by Doing pedagogy and the fact that first-year students start in labs and work on projects in week one,” the email read.
Students with in-person classes, a visa, health, financial or other reasons are encouraged to keep housing for fall quarter, the email read. The university will only allow students to defer their housing if they plan to live at their permanent residence, not if they plan to live off-campus in San Luis Obispo.
The university’s consulting health experts do not believe that students living on-campus will endanger the health or safety of faculty or staff if safety measures are followed.
Staff who either interact directly with students or with high-student-use facilities, such as bathrooms, may experience additional risk, according to the email. This risk can be lessened by wearing PPE and properly sanitizing. Contracting COVID-19 through surfaces is a low-likelihood mode of transmission, according to the email.
The university’s plan is to offer about 12 percent — or about 511 sections — of Fall classes in person. According to enrollment data, less than 6,000 students will take at least one in-person class, Armstrong wrote.
In-person classes have been identified by faculty as “difficult or impossible to offer virtually,” and are necessary for students to make progress towards their degree, according to the email.
In-person classes include milking cows and testing rocket designs, the email read.
“The faculty teaching these courses have volunteered to do so, presumably because they are confident they can teach these classes in a way that is safe for themselves, their students and any other campus community members who may be involved (lab technicians, for example),” the email read.
Virtual sections of in-person labs, projects or activities will not be offered.
The university will accommodate students who need in-person classes to complete their degree but choose not to take any in-person courses, the email read. Accommodations may include students taking courses out of sequence or substituting classes, according to the email.
The majority of students are returning to San Luis Obispo this fall, according to the email. More than 90 percent of students have permanent residences more than 100 miles from campus. Many students signed 12-month leases for local residences pre-coronavirus, according to student surveys conducted in June and August.
For residents of San Luis Obispo, a large concern is having more students living in the community — especially those students returning to San Luis Obispo from counties with higher rates of COVID-19 and students who participate in group behaviors, the email read.
According to university experts, wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing and hand washing will mitigate the risk of having additional people living in San Luis Obispo, the email read.
The university strongly encourages all students living off-campus to test for COVID-19 prior to arrival, the email read.
More details will be communicated by Students Affairs Aug. 26, according to the email.
Students must wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and follow local, county and state COVID-19 guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. These guidelines include San Luis Obispo’s safety enhancement zone.
The university receives daily reports from the police department. Violations of orders will be enforced through the student conduct process, the email read.
Students or organizations who endanger the community’s health and safety may face suspension or expulsion, according to the email.
Live town hall
The university will host a live town-hall to discuss fall quarter plans on Thursday, August 27 at 4:30 p.m. A panel of epidemiologists and public health officers, who have been advising the university, will answer questions. Students, faculty, staff, parents and the public may submit questions at this website.
Cal Poly’s reopening plan follows guidance from Campus Health and Wellbeing experts, epidemiologists, the CSU Chancellor’s Office, the County Public Health Department, Cal Poly’s Department of Emergency Management, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guide for higher education.
“Because of the hands-on nature of our Learn by Doing education, we, more than most universities, have to be disciplined and learn how to deal with the virus,” the email read. “We must balance the continued success of our students with mitigating risk associated with the pandemic.”