SOU President Linda Schott announced in a webinar with employees last week (recording here) and in subsequent messages to students and employees that the university has changed course due to an ongoing surge of the COVID-19 delta variant and most classes will now be conducted remotely for at least the first few weeks of fall term.
“We will begin fall term with primarily remote classes and plan to return to a largely in-person experience on Oct. 11 or soon thereafter,” the president said in her message to employees. “This change in direction was made after consulting with local and state health officials, and an epidemiologist at OHSU. They all asked us to avoid the potential for further strain on our area’s healthcare systems, which may happen if we brought students and employees back to classrooms and buildings without strict controls in place.”
The delta variant has pushed regional hospitals to their limits – their combined ICU load was at 94 percent of capacity as of last week, and the surge of COVID patients was interfering with their ability to provide more routine medical care.
President Schott told campus that the university ”must enact and enforce health protocols that promote public health” as the worldwide pandemic moves toward its two-year mark. The delay in in-person classes and activities is intended to help ensure the safety of students and employees, and to allow more time for all members of the SOU community to become fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccination will be required for employees who must work on campus to fulfill their job responsibilities or who wish to participate in in-person activities. Unvaccinated employees will go through a Human Resources-led process to assess circumstances, duties and responsibilities, operational needs and reasonable accommodation.
Students who are vaccinated will be eligible for in-person classes after SOU shifts back to in-person operations; those who are unvaccinated but have exemptions or accommodations approved through the Dean of Students Office may also attend in-person, but with restrictions that could include testing, social distancing or face coverings. Unvaccinated students without approved exemptions or accommodations will not be eligible for in-person classes or activities, and should work with their student success coordinators or faculty advisors to find appropriate online or remote options.
Face coverings will be required for students, employees and campus visitors at all indoor and outdoor public spaces, as Gov. Kate Brown mandated when delta variant cases surged in the state this summer.
“By reinforcing these health protocols, we hope to quickly get as close as possible to being a ‘fully vaccinated’ campus,” President Schott said.
She reminded employees to fill out their required attestation forms and for students to complete their required forms by Sept. 7 or as soon as possible.
Classes will be remote until early October, but the SOU campus will remain open with safety precautions in place. Some campus activities such as sporting events and artistic performances will continue before the university returns to broad in-person operations, but all who attend must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours of the event. Face coverings are also required.