Tag Archive for: COVID-19

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.


FEMA vaccination center opens Wednesday

Vaccination available through new FEMA/state/county collaboration

Students, employees and other members of the SOU community will have another option for COVID-19 vaccinations beginning Wednesday, April 21, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams with state and local agencies to open the Jackson County Pilot Community Vaccination Center at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point.

The center will be one of about 500 nationwide in FEMA’s push to collaborate with state agencies and expand vaccination capabilities. It will increase capacity at the Jackson County site by about 1,000 vaccinations per day, with those doses being provided directly by the federal government – above and beyond regular state and local allocations. Jackson County Public Health is already operating out of the Expo – at 1 Peninger Road in Central Point – to accelerate the vaccination of historically underserved communities in and around the county.

“We are committed to making sure everyone who wants a vaccine can get one,” said FEMA Region 10 acting administrator Vincent J. Maykovich. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard for communities in and around Jackson County who also suffered from historic wildfires. We are excited to partner to provide equitable access to the vaccine.”

Vaccinations at the Jackson County Community Vaccination Center will be free and available to all – there are no requirements for photo ID, proof of residency or insurance coverage. Those seeking vaccinations are encouraged to register for appointments online or call 2-1-1 for information in English or Spanish. Registration is also available on-site, where masks are required and social distancing will be maintained.

The center will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and from noon to 7 p.m. Friday through Tuesday.

The newly expanded Community Vaccination Center is a joint effort of FEMA; the Oregon Health Authority and state Office of Emergency Management; and the county’s Emergency Management and Health and Human Services departments. Then Expo site will include a drive-through option with the Pfizer vaccine and a walk-up option with the Moderna vaccine, and will coordinate mobile vaccination delivery.

Mobile vaccination locations and hours will be available and updated on the county’s website.

“I am so pleased Jackson County was chosen for a FEMA community vaccination center,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said. “The site will bolster our current efforts to deliver vaccines quickly and equitably, and to meet communities where they are.

“As the state recovers from last year’s historic wildfires and continues to manage through the pandemic, my goal is to elevate the needs of the communities hardest hit – especially those that have been historically underserved – and to rebuild those communities stronger and more resilient. The CVC in Jackson County will help us achieve that goal.”

FEMA is selecting its pilot sites based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Social Vulnerability Index” and other Census data, and input from state and local agencies.

All SOU students can sign up for vaccinations at an on-campus clinic that will be held on Tuesday, April 20. SOU’s regular and student employees, along with emeritus faculty and members of the Board of Trustees, are also eligible to receive their free COVID-19 vaccinations through the Student Health & Wellness Center.

Vaccination clinics have begun at SOU health center

COVID-19 vaccination clinics begin at SOU’s health center

SOU President Linda Schott received her first COVID-19 vaccine this morning at the Student Health & Wellness Center, setting an example for others in the campus community who choose vaccination as a means of protecting themselves and reducing the opportunity for the virus to continue its yearlong spread.

“I’m very excited to get it and really pleased that we’re able to be doing it on-campus,” President Schott said. “I hope that everybody on campus who is able will also come out and get their vaccination.”

All regular and student employees at SOU, along with emeritus faculty and members of the Board of Trustees, are eligible to receive their free COVID-19 vaccinations at the Student Health & Wellness Center beginning this week due to their status as front-line workers under Oregon Health Authority sequencing guidelines. Gov. Kate Brown announced on Tuesday that all Oregon residents over the age of 16 will become eligible for vaccinations beginning April 19, so SOU students will be able to receive their shots from the health center at that time.

Today’s 10 to 11:30 a.m. vaccine clinic was the health center’s first, and additional appointment-only clinics will be held each week, depending on demand. Those who are eligible to take part should call the SHWC at (541) 552-6678 for clinic times and appointment availability.

clinic is located at 560 Indiana Street, and those participating in the vaccine clinics should enter the building through the door facing the Cox Hall parking lot. Everyone who visits the SHWC must wear a mask.

Participants in the vaccine clinics should arrive at their assigned times and bring the following documents with them to their appointments:

questions answered about vaccines

News you can use: Your questions about COVID-19 vaccines, answered

SOU’s Student Health and Wellness Center is getting many questions about COVID-19 shots as the nationwide vaccination program gains momentum and potential availability of the vaccine on campus grows nearer. Current answers to some of the most common and relevant questions about the vaccines are covered here, including who should receive them and what to do next. Data about the vaccines is growing daily, so these answers may evolve or change.

Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID?

Yes. Being infected with COVID-19 may give you some natural immunity, but researchers aren’t sure how long that protection will last. Reinfection is possible and has happened, so you could be at risk for complications from the illness or for spreading the virus to others. It is strongly recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated. However, if you have had COVID-19 within the last three months, you can consider delaying vaccination until 90 days after your diagnosis, since reinfection is uncommon in the first 90 days after your first infection.

Will coronavirus mutations and variants reduce the vaccine’s protection?

At this time, researchers believe that both the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines provide protection against the main COVID-19 variants that were first identified in the U.K. and South Africa.

How soon after being vaccinated will I be protected?

It takes about two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine for your immune response to peak so that you have as much protection as possible.

After I get the first dose of a two-dose vaccine, do I still need to follow safety protocols?

Yes. You are not considered fully immunized until two weeks after the second dose, so during this time you can still get COVID and pass it to others. And even after your second dose, you still need to follow safety protocols.

After the first dose of a two-dose vaccine, do I still need to get a COVID test and quarantine if I develop symptoms or if I have been in contact with someone who has COVID?

Yes. The first dose of a two-dose vaccine provides only about 50 percent protection, so you can still get and transmit COVID. If you have had only one dose of vaccine and you develop symptoms or come into contact with someone who has COVID, then you will need to quarantine and get a COVID test.

If I’ve had a dose of one vaccine and then a different one becomes available, what should I do?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) discourages people from mixing vaccines unless there is an exceptional situation, such as a significant shortage of the vaccine you received first.

After I get the second dose of a two-dose vaccine, do I still need to follow safety protocols?

Yes. Experts agree that everyone needs to continue following standard COVID precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands and following CDC precautions regarding travel. This is a very effective vaccine, but about five out of every 100 people who receive it will not achieve immunity. We don’t know yet how likely it is that someone who is fully vaccinated can still get COVID without having symptoms and unwittingly infect others. Taking standard precautions helps protect you and those around you.

After my second shot, do I still need to quarantine or get a COVID test if I have been in contact with someone who has COVID or if I develop symptoms?

It depends. You are not required to quarantine or test if you meet all three of these criteria:

  • It has been at least two weeks since the second shot of a two-dose vaccine
  • It has been no more than 90 days since the second dose of vaccine
  • You have no symptoms

If you do meet all three criteria, then you do not have to quarantine or test. However, you will still need to monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days after being exposed. If you do develop symptoms in those 14 days, then you must quarantine.

If you do not meet all three criteria, then you need to quarantine.

After I’m fully vaccinated, can I hang out with my friends and family? Can I travel?

There are no definite answers to these questions yet. As more people get vaccinated and the infection rate drops, it will become safer for small groups of vaccinated people to gather. For the moment, until vaccines are more widely available, experts recommend that people practice social distancing whenever possible, continue to wear masks and avoid large groups. Remember, it is still possible for someone who has been vaccinated to become infected and to possibly transmit the virus.

As vaccines become more widely available, travel will become less risky. However, not everyone will be vaccinated, the vaccines are not 100 percent effective and variants have developed that may be more transmissible, so air travel will continue to be riskier than other activities. The CDC regularly updates its travel recommendations, so check its website for updates.

Will getting vaccinated cause me to test positive for COVID?

No. None of the vaccines that are currently approved or that are being tested in the U.S. can cause you to test positive on a viral test. These are the standard tests used to see whether you currently have COVID-19 infection.

It is possible that you would test positive on an antibody (blood) test, but those tests are used only to see whether you have ever been previously infected with COVID-19.

How long will vaccine immunity last? Will booster doses or annual vaccines be needed in the future?

Researchers aren’t sure how long immunity from the vaccine will last and whether a booster dose will be needed.

Local Innovation Lab trains SOU interns as leaders

Local Innovation Lab prepares SOU interns to address disaster issues

(Ashland, Ore.) — If you’re looking for a silver lining somewhere deep within the dual catastrophes of COVID-19 and last fall’s southern Oregon wildfires, look no further than the Local Innovation Lab. The collaborative project of Southern Oregon University and the Humane Leadership Institute is finding student interns and training them as leaders to tackle some of the sticky issues faced by communities and businesses affected by the disasters.

About 30 SOU students from more than 10 separate degree programs are receiving $1,000 stipends to participate as interns ­in the new program this year, and double that number are expected for the 2021-22 academic year. Four of this year’s fall term participants already have paid jobs as a result of their internships.

“Students are learning that humane leadership applies to how they lead themselves as well as how they lead others, and that it applies equally to their personal lives and their professional lives,” said Bret Anderson, SOU’s Economics Department chair and the university’s primary link to the Local Innovation Lab project.

“We are meeting students’ innate desire to contribute to their communities, especially in the wake of the Almeda Fire, while inviting them to apply their skills to impactful work,” he said.

The project grew out of a community conversation that was initiated last April, when it was apparent the COVID-19 pandemic would have deep and long-lasting effects on southern Oregon. Stephen Sloan of the Humane Leadership Institute, a local education think tank, convened a small group of people from Ashland and the Rogue Valley to discuss the emerging problems, needs and opportunities.

Those community conversations eventually grew to include more than two dozen participants, and one of the group’s first actions was to create a 501c3 nonprofit organization – Local Innovation Works – to carry out the first project, the Local Innovation Lab.

Community leaders in the larger group had discussed the need for interns to help businesses, social service agencies and local governments reboot their operations in ways that could help address pandemic-related issues. But the interns would need to be prepared to lead, rather than be led.

“I have heard over and over again that the effort required to bring a student intern up to speed is not worth the benefit of hiring an intern for many organizations,” Anderson said. “This was a gap that we identified pretty clearly. Universities do a great job of (creating) academic foundations for careers and employers do well with on-the-job training for their long-term employees, but the short-term student intern is left in the void.

“Thus, there was a need for a community organization to build a bridge between the academic community and organizations in the community that focused on the students’ own experience of leading themselves and those around them.”

Those who apply to participate in the program as student interns are required to take an SOU course on humane leadership, which emphasizes qualities such as compassion, consideration and encouragement. That course and participation in the internship program satisfy two of the three criteria needed to earn SOU’s digital badge or micro-credential in Values-Based Leadership. The third requirement is completion of any of several elective courses that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, and the wider social context in which entrepreneurship and civic engagement take place.

The Local Innovation Lab, humane leadership course and Values-Based Leadership badge all are open to both enrolled SOU students and community members.

The lab was initially intended to launch with a cohort of interns for winter term, but the wildfires of early September “turned the dial up to 11,” Anderson said. It was instead unveiled as a pilot program with interns lined up after fall term had already begun.

Its organizers wove together the abilities of interns, the assets of donors and investors, and the needs of organizations affected by the pandemic or fires.

The project is clearly working.

One intern from SOU’s Financial Mathematics program is helping the city of Phoenix clean up the accounting for its water billings; a Continuing Education student is analyzing data from Medford’s Family Nurturing Center to better map social service outreach efforts to outcomes. Another student is helping create a community investment fund by looking at gaps between local banks’ loan terms and the ability of underserved entrepreneurs to get credit. Yet another is working “her dream job” with the Gordon Elwood Foundation, creating a “visually appealing, accessible online database profiling key funders in the Southern Oregon region.”

Two other interns are working with the nonprofit Remake Talent to create an interactive recovery dashboard using ArcGIS and to present the evolving network of fire relief organizations that provide resources to the Rogue Valley.

“Students get a real-world experience of impact, collaboration and reality,” Anderson said. “They get a sense of the practical utility of their education. They get a break from theory and a deep dive into the challenges of trying to get important things done with other people.”

New director for Division of Education, Health and Leadership

SOU remains flexible in pandemic, pivots toward remote courses

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is making use of the flexibility built into its reopening plan, pivoting to a fall academic schedule in which most – but not all – classes will be delivered remotely. The shift is due to the continued spread of COVID-19 in southern Oregon and statewide, and will benefit from the university’s growing familiarity with online and remote classes.

“I shared some months ago that our reopening strategy would be flexible and allow for these kinds of adjustments,” SOU President Linda Schott said in a message to students. “I remain committed to delivering a customized and flexible ‘hybrid’ learning experience this fall, balancing academic excellence with our community’s health and safety.”

The president pointed out that COVID-19 continues to spread in southern Oregon and much of the state, and that SOU recently learned of some initial cases involving members of its campus community.

The university has updated its safety and health protocols – including strict capacity standards for indoor spaces and a requirement for face coverings both inside and outside where adequate social distancing is not possible – to exceed CDC guidance. SOU is working with Oregon’s other public universities, community partners and Jackson County Public Health to plan for and respond to positive COVID-19 cases when they occur.

“I want our students to continue their studies in safety,” President Schott said. “I want SOU employees to continue serving our students without putting their health in jeopardy. And I want our neighbors and community members to recognize that we are moving ahead with appropriate caution.”

The university’s planning teams have worked to develop educational and student experiences that ensure both academic progression and improved quality of remote delivery courses. Many faculty members are taking advantage of professional development opportunities this summer to enhance learning environments for students in the coming academic year. SOU’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning has helped upgrade the university’s online and remote offerings.


About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.

SOU operations modified for spring term

SOU goes remote for spring term, campus closed to public

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has informed students and employees that all spring term courses will be delivered remotely and most on-campus operations will be limited to help slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

SOU’s decisions came in response to an executive order today by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for all public colleges and universities in the state to halt in-class coursework through at least April 28. University leaders made the decision to offer all classes remotely throughout spring term to give students, faculty and others a greater degree of certainty.

The university’s main campus in Ashland will be open only to SOU faculty, staff and students beginning Saturday.

President Linda Schott informed students of the developments today, and offered some details about how SOU’s COVID-19 responses will affect winter and spring term grades, financial aid, spring courses, academic support programs, student employment, residence hall occupants and other campus programs or operations. The university will waive interest on all student accounts, late payment fees and revolving charge fees for all of spring term.

SOU’s tuition rate is set for the entire academic year, but the university’s Board of Trustees will discuss modifications to a variety of student fees – including those for the Student Recreation Center, Student Health & Wellness Center, Student Life activities and remote delivery of courses – during an emergency meeting tonight.

SOU employees were notified this afternoon that most will be encouraged work remotely until further notice, and those who remain on campus will be required to follow social distancing guidelines. Exceptions to the telecommuting arrangement include those whose work is designated as “essential,” whose work cannot be performed away from campus, whose presence on campus is required for operational purposes or who need technical or other resources that are not available at their remote locations.

Academic counseling and guidance will continue throughout the term – largely online – and faculty members will be told whether their presence on campus is needed.

SOU’s new measures are consistent with those adopted by most of Oregon’s six other public universities in response to the governor’s executive order.

The order prohibits colleges and universities “from conducting in-person classroom laboratory and other instruction” from this Saturday through April 28, with the possibility that the period will be extended. Gov. Brown also ordered higher education institutions to “limit on-campus operations only to critical functions and … employ strict social distancing measures for all on-campus employees and residents.”

The governor specifically allowed the continued operation of programs including student housing and dining services. SOU’s residence halls will remain open for spring break throughout spring term, and food service will continue to be available at the Hawk dining commons – but only by takeout.


SOU takes action against COVID-19

SOU takes steps to protect campus, slow COVID-19 spread

Southern Oregon University continues to both anticipate and react to challenges in the global COVID-19 outbreak, implementing a variety of new measures this week to protect the health and well-being of the campus community and enable continuity in academic and student support programs.

The SOU campus remains open and active even as students, faculty and staff adapt to measures that will reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Information and resources to help campus community members navigate the outbreak are available on the university’s COVID-19 website (sou.edu/campus/notifications/).

SOU President Linda Schott announced the newest steps on Thursday to prepare for and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. The measures include plans for finals week, spring break, spring term coursework, remote working, personal and SOU-related travel, groups and gatherings, and international programs.

The new actions are consistent with those announced for other public universities in the state and are based on guidance from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Finals week
President Schott said that finals will proceed as scheduled. The university is making remote options available to faculty members to use, if feasible. If remote exams are not practical, faculty members have been directed to ensure that social distancing criteria are met – a distance of at least three feet should be maintained between all people.

SOU Provost Susan Walsh followed up with an email to faculty members Thursday night, asking them to make determinations on their final exams and register them today on a shared spreadsheet.

Spring break
The university is extending this year’s spring break for students by one week – it will begin on Monday, March 23, and spring term classes will begin on Monday, April 6. SOU’s intent is to allow additional time for the curve of the virus’s spread to “flatten” and also to give faculty members an opportunity to plan and develop options for spring term remote course delivery.

Residence halls at SOU and the Hawk dining commons will remain open through spring break for students who choose to remain on campus.

Spring term
Both the president and provost asked faculty members to prepare for remote delivery of instruction in all courses where it’s feasible. Remote instruction – which includes online, video conferencing and other methods – is intended to help limit opportunities for virus transmission in group settings.

The new start date for spring term will still enable all courses to be completed in time for SOU’s commencement on Saturday, June 13.

Remote work
All supervisors and managers were asked to offer remote working opportunities to office employees, in all cases where those arrangements are feasible. Allowing work to be done away from campus is another effort to limit chances for the virus to spread within SOU’s campus community.

Limits have been placed on all non-essential SOU-related travel. Members of the campus community were also encouraged to avoid personal travel outside of southern Oregon to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Groups and gatherings
The president announced the cancellation of all non-essential SOU activities, events and gatherings that do not allow participants or attendees to maintain a distance of three feet from each other. This cancellations include audience admission at intercollegiate athletics and activities, except for student participants, essential personnel and credentialed media. The NAIA has cancelled all currently scheduled events, and SOU is awaiting word on whether all spring sports seasons will be cancelled or resumed after a delay.

All performance and museum events that result in gatherings of 20 or more people have been postponed until further notice by the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University. The decision was made to protect audiences, students and employees from the spreading virus.

The university is also encouraging the use of remote meetings whenever possible, and has placed a limit of 20 people or fewer on all non-essential meetings. Organizers have been directed to arrange spaces that can accommodate three times the number of invited attendees, to allow adequate room for social distancing, when in-person meetings are necessary.

International programs
All SOU-sponsored international programs and trips have been suspended until further notice.