With San Diego County making steady progress through California's reopening blueprint and Governor Gavin Newsom's plan to get "back to normal," or close to it, this summer, local universities are adjusting their plans for the Fall 2021 semester.
As of Wednesday, nearly 23% of the county's population has been fully vaccinated (around 12% of those fully vaccinated are between the ages of 16 and 29), and we are quickly approaching the mid-April target date for eligibility to expand to anyone 16 and older.
Our improving vaccination data, and several other factors, are reason for major universities in the region to have an optimistic outlook for the fall semester in regards to instruction, on-campus housing and much more.
Here are some of the details from their plans.
San Diego State University
Looking ahead to Fall 2021, San Diego State is planning for instruction to be primarily in-person and expects to have the majority of its employees back on campus, according to a notice sent out the the university community Wednesday.
"We are exploring a number of additional public-health protections and support mechanisms, which will make this possible," the notice said.
Testing, Vaccination Requirements
SDSU said it will require either proof of vaccination or regular COVID-19 testing for students coming back to in-person instruction.
For students who are vaccinated, the university is asking them to submit documentation to Student Health Services on the schools online portal.
As for students living on campus, testing will be required on arrival, and the university will continue its contact tracing program and will keep isolation/quarantine housing available. The notice said on-campus housing will be opened up to thousands more students.
The university began expanding campus repopulation for the Spring 2021 semester. It prioritized research classes and programs where in-person instruction was essential, while still allowing flexibility between in-person and distance learning models.
SDSU said it was planning on sharing updated repopulation plans for researchers and faculty next week that it expects will allow for increased access to on-campus research spaces during the spring.
"We anticipate this access will continue to improve through the remainder of the spring semester and into summer 2021," SDSU said.
Fall 2021 Registration
The Fall 2021 course schedule won't be revealed until May 10 (Originally scheduled for April 12) to allow staff to adjust new guidance. Registration for the fall semester will open May 25.
"Over the next few weeks, deans and associate deans will be working with department chairs, school directors and instructional faculty to explore options and update the course schedule as appropriate. Additional guidance specific to academic advisors is also forthcoming," SDSU said.
SDSU is taking a phased approach to expanding student access to the university library, starting May 24. Details here.
Masks will be required on campus through the Fall 2021 semester, SDSU said. More specific guidance for managers and staff members is being finalized and will be released later, the school said.
SDSU will continue providing student support services, including counseling; virtual academic help; emergency financial assistance and the cultural centers programming, and staff services, like its Employee Assistance Program
SDSU also plans to implement enhanced cleaning and sanitation services, and install a waste water testing infrastructure similar to UC San Diego's.
UC San Diego
Over at UC San Diego, the plan is to have the campus near full capacity by Fall 2021, with instruction taking place primarily in classrooms. That's if the promising results shown by the approved COVID-19 vaccines continue, according to the university.
Testing, Vaccination Requirements
Students and staff returning to campus who aren't vaccinated will be required to participate in a weekly testing program, but UCSD doesn't expect to require the same participation for those who are vaccinated.
UCSD said it hopes to have 90% of students 85% of on-site staff fully vaccinated by the fall quarter.
All students returning to campus, vaccinated or not, will be required to test for COVID-19 upon arrival, UCSD said. Students can get testing kits from several test-dispensing vending machines placed around campus.
Residence halls will near 100% occupancy with no more than 2 students per room, UCSD said.
UCSD said it will continue offering distance learning options for students who can't make it to campus from abroad.
The university said its had around 10,000 students living on campus since the fall of 2020.
"For most of the school year, the infection rate among these students has been less than one-half of one percent," UCSD said.
Mask Requirements, Social Distancing
Masks wills be required in all public places on campus, and physical distancing in places where people are masked will be set at 3 feet.
UCSD is giving the all clear on sporting events, some concerts, and social gatherings. The university didn't detail any possible crowd limits, but any in place will likely be set by the Centers for Disease Control or the California Department of Public Health.
Under Orange Tier rules, which kicked in on Wednesday, capacity limits expanded for outdoor live events and event centers. Details here.
UC San Diego's state of the art wastewater testing system, which monitors sewage from more than 340 buildings across campus to detect the coronavirus, will remain fully operational.
The wastewater testing system at UCSD is bigger than any other system like it at any college across the country, according to UCSD.
“Our wastewater program has been a highly sensitive tool for detecting infections and can detect a single asymptomatic individual in a building with several hundred residents,” said Natasha Martin, associate professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “As we experienced this school year, when we see a concerning signal in a given building, we alert the individuals living or working there to get tested. The high response rates to these alerts enables us to detect infections earlier than our routine testing program and we will continue to use this wastewater-triggered testing for the 2021-22 academic year.”
In a continued effort to thwart coronavirus outbreaks on campus, UCSD will make use of its large outdoor tent classrooms and monitor indoor airflow and air quality.
The plexiglass barriers put up around campus to define spaces for students and staff, which were once thought to prevent the airborne spread of COVID-19, aren't expected to be a major part of the schools safety strategy, but hand sanitizing stations are here to stay.
The university said it will continue its bolstered telehealth services, and will likely keep the services around as a regular option for students past the pandemic
More information on UCSD's plan for the future can be found here.