An evolving process: USF provides health and safety updates

Miguel Arcayena

Staff Writer

As students head back to the physical classroom, they will be required to take an online course on COVID-19 safety protocol, though the University is not requiring vaccines at this time. PHOTO COURTESY OF USF OFFICE OF MARKETING COMMUNICATION

Now that at least 30% of Americans are fully vaccinated and there are new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on what activities people can safely do after getting their COVID vaccine, USF released new updates last week regarding campus health guidelines and safety requirements for the upcoming fall semester. 

On April 30, Vice President of Student Life Julie Orio provided new information about the campus return which included updates on testing, safety measures, and details for international and out-of-state students. The University-wide email reiterated planned social distancing measures and face covering protocols, as well as the required online daily health survey that will continue next semester. 

However, the most significant update involved vaccinations. USF announced that it is “working with health and legal experts as we consider requiring all students, graduate and undergraduate, to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 for fall 2021,” according to Orio’s email. Since January, the University has said it encourages students, faculty, and staff members to get vaccinated when possible. While USF has stopped short of making vaccine requirements mandatory, this most recent update comes soon after California’s public universities announced they will now require COVID-19 vaccinations for campus reopenings

A day after the UC and CSU system’s announcement, Stanford University said that it too will require its students to be fully vaccinated to return to campus. In addition, other major Bay Area higher education institutions like Santa Clara University and St. Mary’s College of California have joined the chorus of more than 100 colleges and universities across the country requiring COVID-19 vaccines as a caveat for return.  

Kellie Samson, head of USF media relations, clarified some of the information USF provided in the email update. When asked if required vaccinations would be the best way to return and help mitigate any safety concerns, Samson said over email, “It is true that the more members of our community that are vaccinated, the lower the risk of COVID-19 will be on campus. Requiring vaccination on campus will not necessarily lead to a full reopening of USF for fall 2021. Regardless of a vaccination requirement, the university is still bound by what is allowable by the San Francisco Department of Public Health.” 

The USF update also outlined that the University plans on offering “vaccination sites upon arrival for our students who may not have had access to the vaccine.” The School of Nursing and Health Professions (SONHP), in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, has converted the Koret Health and Recreation Center into a vaccination site. In an email, SONHP Associate Dean Susan Prion said, “The [Kaiser Permanente]-Koret vaccination site is scheduled to close June 1, as Koret has asked for the practice gym back in order to prepare for the start of the Fall semester.” 

In response to where and how the vaccine will be accessible, Samson explained that the University is “working with a number of different providers to provide vaccination clinics on campus for students. Exact information on where these sites [will be] is still to be determined, but they will be on campus.”

April 28, two days prior to the email updates, Health Promotion Services (HPS) notified students that it had created a new mandatory COVID-19 course called, “Staying Healthy in a Changing Environment for Students on Campus.” According to the email, the 30-minute class will serve as an educational tool for USF students on how “to protect yourself and others,” and it “includes a critical wellness aspect, and on/off campus resources.” 

The course went live May 3 and will be available for students to take until the August 1 deadline, roughly two weeks before the fall semester begins. Students who do not complete the course will be fined $100. 

HPS Director Natalie Macias said the creation of the course came about because groups working on campus’ reopening wanted a way to provide education and awareness, “making sure that when we come back, our students are practicing safe social norms.” 

Currently, a Canvas training module is in place that teaches COVID-19 facts and safety strategies to essential students who live and learn on campus, but that module will be phased out at the end of this semester. Macias said that this new course is similar to the Canvas module but will be more “engaging and interactive.”

This new tool is a product from the University’s training vendor, EVERFI. EVERFI previously provided the platform for “Think About It,” USF’s sexual assault prevention course for freshmen and sophomores. Macias said the COVID course isn’t guaranteed for other semesters and will primarily be used for this fall.

As of this time, USF’s planned campus protocols are targeted only for the fall semester. Though medical recommendations are changing and social behaviors are adjusting, in August 2021: social distancing, face coverings, testing, and vaccine shots will have guaranteed presence at the Hilltop.  

For all the latest official University information and updates about campus guidelines and next fall, visit USF Together. 

Miguel Arcayena is a junior politics major, Deputy News Editor, and a General Assignment Reporter at the Foghorn. He covers COVID-19-related campus news. He can be reached at marcayena@sffoghorn.com.  

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