What to expect for first in-person semester, latest COVID-19 policies

Some unvaccinated students allowed to attend same events, given they complete mandatory weekly testing

Catlan Nguyen

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Catlan Nguyen

Mask requirement signs posted around campus remind students if they are not fully vaccinated, they must wear a facial covering in all settings on campus.

by Catlan Nguyen and Katelynn Robinson

As students return for their first in-person semester after more than a year of virtual instruction, Student Health Services teams, Housing Administration representatives and more explain the updated COVID-19 policies at San Diego State. 

SHS Director Libby Skiles and Associate Vice President of Business of Operations Eric Hansen said the university is prioritizing keeping instruction and activities in-person while creating the new health guidelines.

“We have heard from many students, parents and staff faculty that they very much miss being able to be engaged in community and being able to learn in an in-person solution,” Hansen said.

While procedures are put in place for the fall semester to prevent coronavirus outbreaks, SDSU has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases among its students and faculty this summer.

According to multiple emails sent to SDSU employees, 20 students, 13 employees, one campus visitor and one contractor have tested positive for COVID-19 within July and August. However, the risk for all cases was deemed low, according to each email. The latest cases are reported as unrelated to the previous ones.

Here’s what you need to know:

The biggest change for the Fall 2021 semester is the university is requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for SDSU students, faculty and staff, regardless of FDA approval, Skiles said. 

Individuals may request an exemption from the vaccine requirement due to serious medical conditions or religious reasons. 

Students who qualify for the exemption will be allowed to attend in-person classes and events just like a vaccinated student, Skiles said.

“The difference will really be around their testing cadence or frequency and requirement to do so,” Skiles explains. 

Those who are approved for a medical or religious exemption and choose to remain unvaccinated must participate in mandatory weekly testing in order to attend in-person classes and activities. 

“They will have different outcomes if they are exposed to someone who has COVID-19,” Skiles said. “Unvaccinated persons do need to quarantine for 14 full days. They cannot test out of that quarantine.” 

Vaccinated people who are exposed to COVID-19 are not required to quarantine but are recommended to get tested and monitor their symptoms.

Unvaccinated individuals must wear a facial covering in more situations than those who are vaccinated including all communal spaces in their residential community, Skiles said.

Masks are also required again for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students in indoor settings and highly transmissible areas. 

These guidelines come as CDC guidelines have shifted to address the rising COVID-19 case counts in the nation, according to Skiles. 

SDSU is also planning to place 18 vending machines containing COVID-19 home tests around both the main campus and Imperial Valley, according to Hansen. Eleven will be placed in residential communities, one near the Aztec Student Union, one at the Imperial Valley campus and the remaining will be finalized once school begins.

“At the end of the day, it’s also a community responsibility,” Skiles said. “We’re accountable to ourselves and one another to follow those policies. We don’t want to go back. We don’t want to go virtual but it requires each of us to lift a little bit.”

Some students feel a mix of hesitancy and excitement about returning to in-person classes this fall.

“If people weren’t so reckless and if students actually took human lives into account, it’d be a lot safer to go back,” sustainability third year Samantha Gonzalez said. “Even having the vaccine doesn’t make you 100% immune. It’s not a bubble. It’s not a shield.”

Housing

This year, students will be allowed to have guests in their living space as long as they’re also living in SDSU residence halls. No outside guests will be allowed to visit students’ living spaces except on move-in day. On each students’ assigned move-in day two guests will be allowed to help them move their belongings into their space. 

Executive Director of the Office of Housing Administration Cynthia Cervantes said the mask regulations in residential communities will continue to align with the health and safety guidelines of the school, state and county.

Face coverings are still required in all public spaces in the residence halls including laundry rooms, study spaces and communal bathrooms. The housing department specified they don’t expect students to wear facial coverings while they are showering, brushing their teeth or washing their face. 

Enhanced cleanings/sanitations will continue to take place in the residence halls. 

Executive Director of Residential Education Kara Bauer said randomly assigned roommates are encouraged to have discussions about how COVID-19 will play a role in their living situation.

The housing department cannot ask students for their vaccination status due to HIPPA laws, so it’s important for students to have open conversations with their roommates.

“We have been sharing with parents, when their students get that roommate information, make sure that is part of the conversation…they can ask each other and share with each other their vaccination status but we cannot share that information nor can we ask,” Bauer said.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, isolation spaces will continue to be available at SDSU. The housing department said plans are still in the works, and exact spaces have not been determined. 

All students who plan to live on campus must provide a negative COVID-19 test in their Healtheconnect portal before moving into their residence hall regardless of vaccination status.

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