SOU approaches COVID as endemic

SOU shifts to endemic approach on COVID-19

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University announced this week that its COVID-19 policies will shift from a pandemic footing to an endemic approach, emphasizing safety and caution as changes are made in practices such as masking, quarantines and restrictions on campus visitors.

Masks will not be required either indoors or outdoors at SOU beginning March 19, the day after winter term ends, but those who prefer to wear masks for their own safety are welcomed and encouraged to do so. President Rick Bailey told students and employees in a campus message on Monday that N95 masks will continue to be made available for their use in most campus buildings.

“As you know, Southern Oregon University has been a role model in the way we have fought to keep each other safe and healthy despite the challenges of the pandemic,” Bailey said. “We recognize that COVID may not disappear anytime soon, but we feel we can safely return to largely normal operations by exercising caution and following the advice and recommendations of scientific and public health experts.”

SOU’s vaccination policy will remain in effect – students and employees are still required to attest that they have received all CDC-recommended COVID vaccines and boosters, or that they have been granted medical, religious or other exemptions. New students will be required to attest that they are fully vaccinated or apply for exemptions. Compliance with the policy will be monitored by randomly selecting students to show proof of their vaccination status.

The most significant change to the vaccination policy is that guests and visitors to campus for indoor or outdoor events will no longer be required to show proof of their status. Mandatory weekly testing for students or employees who have been granted exemptions under SOU’s vaccination policy will be discontinued as of March 12, and the isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19 will be reduced to five days, from the 10 days now required, bringing SOU in line with current recommendations from the CDC.

President Bailey pointed out in Monday’s announcement that all changes to the university’s policies “may be subject to further revision depending on evolving conditions.” The latest modifications were recommended by the university’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee, with input from local, state and federal health authorities.

“The guiding principle of that group, and of our university, is that the health and safety of students, employees and community members will always be our highest priority,” Bailey said.