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Oregon State University
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 12 May 2020

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is preparing plans to resume in-person instruction in late summer and fall term on its campuses in Corvallis and Bend, pending state authorization.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and those we serve is our top priority,” said Edward Feser, Oregon State’s provost and executive vice president. “We are aiming to resume university activities gradually and with flexibility to adjust to guidance from public health authorities, COVID-19 conditions and the availability of medical services in the communities in which we operate.”

Goal is to start reopening Sept. 1

Under a best-case scenario, OSU campuses and facilities would be open and most employees would be back at their worksites by Sept. 1; fall classes are scheduled to begin Sept. 23. Most in-person instruction and other activities would resume, though with modifications for physical distancing. Over much of the summer, the university will continue to provide remote instruction.

“While there is uncertainty ahead for all of us, we want everyone to know that OSU is here for them,” Feser said.

“We will accommodate the uncertainty together and support students on their path to graduation and success in life, career and community. And we will continue our efforts to solve the world’s most pressing problems through our research and innovation and to advance the prosperity of all Oregonians and their communities through the work of the OSU Extension Service.”

University officials on Monday released their Pandemic Resumption Plan, developed by Oregon State’s Continuity Management Team in close coordination with state and local public health officials and the governor’s office. The university will refine the plan over the coming months with advice from faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders, and as conditions and state guidance evolve.

The plan includes the following health measures:

  • Use OSU’s TRACE-COVID-19 project to monitor the prevalence in the university community of the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Enhance cleaning and sanitation of university facilities and emphasize regular hand-washing and other hygiene practices
  • Provide recommendations regarding the use of face coverings
  • Practice appropriate physical distancing
  • Provide virus testing in the Student Health Center for students in Corvallis and work with local health providers for testing in Bend
  • Engage in contact tracing related to any OSU student or employee infected by COVID-19 so that they may be isolated and monitored for illness
  • Provide support for students who become symptomatic and require self-isolation or quarantine space if they have been exposed

OSU working under Governor orders and OHA guidelines

Dan Larson, vice provost for student affairs and OSU’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said OSU’s plan follows Gov. Kate Brown’s procedures for a phased reopening of the state and complies with the governor’s executive orders and Oregon Health Authority guidelines.

OSU’s plan uses the state’s framework for reopening as a guide for safely resuming on-site university activities. Larson said Oregon’s seven public universities have all agreed to follow the same shared framework for resuming on-site activity. “While county readiness will be critical to resuming on-site OSU activities, we also are planning for additional higher education education-specific guidance from the state, which will inform how we shape the details of our plans.”

Under Oregon State’s plan, each of the university’s locations will determine how to resume on-site activities within the university’s framework as counties gain authorization from the Oregon Health Authority to reopen. The regions where OSU campuses and facilities operate must be able to satisfy state-determined requirements, including declining prevalence of the disease; testing capacity; contact tracing; isolation facilities, health care capacity; and sufficient local availability of personal protective equipment.

“We are preparing to help meet these requirements, such as isolation plans in the residence halls and testing capacity in our student health center,” Larson said. “The university’s plan provides a high-level framework that allows flexibility for resumption based upon the public health conditions in the counties in which we have operations, services and programs.”

Back to 'normal' in phases

The plan calls for a gradual return to in-person activities with adherence to physical distancing measures.

“Although we are all anxious to get back to ‘normal’, we will be slowly lifting restrictions in the first phase,” Larson said.

“While we are planning for a gradual reopening, we also are planning for other public health scenarios that may occur if the prevalence of the virus changes. We have the ability as a university, particularly over the summer, to take it slow. As we move through these phases, we will gradually bring more people and activity back to campus and OSU facilities statewide, in alignment with local and state health authority authorization.”

If conditions change at any point during the pandemic, the university, working with county health officials, could implement cooling-off periods such as a return to remote learning and working strategies and other virus control measures.

In all of the phases, the university will maintain workplace health monitoring measures, continue with ongoing public health messaging and employ enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices. Staggered work schedules and other social and physical distancing measures also will continue.

“By late summer, we will need to know that our capacity in our counties and our health care systems are fully ready for when our students begin arriving in the fall,” Larson said.

“We are committed to ensuring our students are well-served, well-supported and continue to make progress toward their degrees.”

To read more about Oregon State’s plan to resume operations, visit the university’s COVID-19 website.

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