Updated COVID-19 protocols, on-campus tests, and mandatory quarantines

Although San Francisco and other Bay Area counties have eased mask mandates, USF says it will continue to implement protocols created in the summer. PHOTO BY BEAU TATTERSALL/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

As USF went into fall break, San Francisco officially updated its indoor masking requirements Oct. 15. The change in policy affected regularly meeting groups such as offices, gyms, and college classrooms whose capacities do not exceed 100 fully vaccinated people. 

The mayor and Department of Public Health (DPH) cited the decline of positive cases and hospitalization rates as reasons for the change. According to the release, San Francisco is  averaging 77 positive cases a day, compared to the 309 daily cases during the summer surge.  Mayor Breed said, “We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around safe.”

USF, however, has not eased their restrictions and mandates. Even though classes fall within the examples of regularly meeting groups, the University decided to maintain its mask-wearing policy in all campus buildings and outdoor events. On Oct. 20, the University released a “COVID Protocol Reminder” to address the new changes in the city’s mask mandate. 

The announcement came from Director of Campus Resilience Eric Giadrini, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Diane Nelson, and Vice President of Student Life Julie Orio.  

The statement reinforced existing policies that the University had implemented at the start of the academic year. Although USF is “reviewing San Francisco’s latest Safer Return Together Order, which outlines the full set of requirements to allow for mask removal,” they clarified that face coverings will continue to be a requirement in all campus buildings and outdoor events, calling this effort a “very important preventive measure.” Additionally, the announcement also included updates about the availability of vaccine boosters and a reminder for the community to receive their yearly flu shots.

Weekly COVID-19 testing is now also available to all campus community members. According to Health Promotion Services (HPS) Director Natalia Macias, testing at McLaren Conference Center began Sept. 22. In partnership with Dignity Health Urgent Care, the testing site is “geared towards all USF students but if faculty and staff needed a test they are able to get tested as well,” said Macias. With an average of about 30-60 students coming to the testing site per week, Macias noted that “As of right now this is being offered through the fall 2021 semester” and USF “will have to work with Dignity Health Urgent Care regarding the spring 2022 semester.”

An important update within the announcement was the University’s decision to return to its policy of tying campus building access with a completion of the Dons Health Check. Prior to the start of the semester, individuals had to complete the same online form in order to activate their One Card. The Dons Health Check serves as a contract tracing tool to understand which students and staff may have come in contact with or been infected with COVID-19. 

On-campus resident Cameron (a pseudonym to protect his privacy) recounted his experience of a four-day quarantine in a USF residence hall. “When the head of SHaRE came to my room, he told me that this quarantine is 24 hours, I cannot leave the room.” The junior finance major found out he had firsthand contact with the virus Sept. 22 via email. He took a COVID-19 test with the University the same day and tested negative. The next day, he took and received a second negative test. Despite these test results, the University still decided to quarantine him on Saturday, Sep. 25.

Cameron was informed that he needed to bring enough clothes and toiletries to last through his quarantine, as well as school supplies to keep him on track. However, in a statement to the Foghorn, Student Housing Director Torry Brouillard-Bruce clarified the process. “Quarantine and Isolation Rooms [Q/I rooms] have been created using vacant one-bedroom and studio units in Loyola Village. Each Q/I room comes with a linen set so students do not have to bring their own bedding. They are also provided a towel, soap, and toilet paper. Students in Q/I rooms are provided access to online meal delivery ordering which will be delivered to their room.” Online meal delivery is performed by on duty residential advisors (RAs), in partnership with Bon Appetite and One Card.

Other than his brief interactions with the RAs delivering his meals, Cameron’s contact with the outside world while in quarantine was extremely limited. Although most Q/I rooms are located in Loyola Village, Cameron stayed in a Q/I room in Lone Mountain North. His room had a single twin XL bed, a desk tucked away in the corner, and an attached bathroom. Cameron’s Q/I room also had a standard microwave, a minifridge, and a dresser for his clothes.

“When you’re quarantined, it’s going to feel like a large pause button but do not worry about the life that you’re missing outside of quarantine,” Cameron said. “Take a few days and recharge yourself. We often wish for life to slow down and in quarantine, life slows down and it slows drastically.”

Brouillard-Bruce added that students do have a choice for their Q/I room. “When more convenient for the student, a student may be assigned to a quarantine/isolation room held offline in another residence hall,” he said.  He also added that, should there be a large-scale spread of the virus, “there is a collection of rooms available in Lone Mountain Pacific Wing which currently is not occupied.”

According to the “Cases Dashboard” on the USF Together webpage, since Aug. 1 2021, there have been a total of 40 confirmed positive cases within USF. Of the total 687 tests that have been provided by the University, 98.3% were negative, 0.3% were positive and 1.3% were inconclusive. 

At the time of this publication, two students living on campus tested positive and are currently in isolation.

For all the latest official University information and updates about campus COVID-19 guidelines, visit USF Together.

Miguel Arcayena contributed to the reporting of this story.

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