Update of COVID FAQs — March 5, 2021
March 05, 2021
March 05, 2021
Q: Is Southwestern loosening up its COVID-19 protocols so students can have more face-to-face meetings on behalf of student organizations?
A: Due in large part to students taking the Pirate Pledge seriously and the commitment to find creative solutions by the Student Life staff, there are more and more ways for students to gather and interact across campus. For workshops and activities facilitated by professional staff (i.e., Mosaic, Residence Life, and Student Activities), we have increased the approved capacity for each space from the original 10. Now, up to 20 students may attend these programs, with all student attendees respecting SU’s safety protocols and abiding by mask-wearing and physical-distancing requirements. Student organizations may hold events of up to 40 students outdoors and 25 students indoors when coordinating the event with a facility reservation through the Student Activities Office. Student Activities will coordinate outdoor tabling opportunities for student organizations and departments beginning the week of March 8, 2021. This outdoor tabling will facilitate both event promotion and the philanthropic endeavors of our approximately 100 student organizations.
Q: Can students visit one another in their own residence hall and in residence halls across campus?
A: Residents of the same building may visit each other at the threshold of individual rooms, in lobbies, in lounges, or outside, but residents should remain masked and in small groups. Residents from different buildings may meet outside the halls in various areas around campus.
Q: What types of entertainment and socializing can students expect for the remainder of the spring semester?
A: Mosaic offers three to five in-person opportunities per week for students to engage with one another, including Mosaic Meetups, Pirates in Progress, Self-Care Saturdays, and Wednesday Night Study Breaks. In addition, there is one topic-specific event per week; some examples include My Birthday and Other Historic Events with the Library, active bystander training, and workshops on time management, goal setting, and money management.
Residential programming happens on a weekly basis in and out of each residential space. Students should seek out their RA for additional information.
Student Activities hosts weekly Friday Night Live programming (e.g., Escape Room, SU Painting Event, and game shows) and monthly Cinematic Saturday events. Intramural sports will continue with tournaments each week (e.g., corn hole, pickle ball, spike ball, and badminton). And there are three virtual fitness classes (two Yoga classes and one Bootcamp) offered by SIRA each week.
As always, there is a variety of meetings and events sponsored by our 100 student organizations each week.
If a student is not interested in in-person programming, we are providing takeaway bags filled with fun surprises for individual entertainment and stress relief.
COVID Health Protocols and Testing
Q: Why is Southwestern continuing to require face masks and physical distancing?
A: Our decision to continue to follow the health and safety protocols we instituted in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 is based on several guidelines and data, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, advice from scientists and medical professionals, current Williamson County positivity rates, and the fact that our policies have been successful in keeping positivity rates to a minimum on our campus. As Governor Greg Abbott stated in his speech on March 2, “With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.” Southwestern intends to keep our community safe by continuing our COVID protocols.
Q: Is SU requiring students, faculty and staff to wear two masks?
A: The University recommends, but does not require wearing two masks in order to better protect against new variants of COVID-19.
Q: Should I get a COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available for me?
A: Yes, everyone should find out when it’s your time to be vaccinated and register for an appointment. Check here for updates on vaccine registrations that are currently available in Texas.
Q: Will vaccines be mandatory to attend SU in the future?
A: It is our strong expectation that our students will get the COVID-19 vaccination when they have the opportunity to do so. Like all vaccinations, the University will be required by the state to offer exemptions from required vaccines. To be exempted, students will have to provide a notarized “Exemption from Immunizations for Reasons of Conscience Affidavit” form from the State of Texas.
Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccination safe?
A: Disinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines available abounds on social media. If you’re unsure about the vaccination, educate yourself - the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is only one of many reputable organizations that will provide you with vetted, science-based information on the virus and accessible vaccinations.
Q: Will I need to continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distance after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: The CDC recommends that you continue to wear your masks and exercise effective social distancing after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. The immune reaction to the first dose would be insufficient to shield you or anyone. Depending on the vaccine, the second dose can have about 95 percent safety one or two weeks after administration. Once vaccinated, continue to wear a mask over your nose and mouth, keep at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and cramped, badly ventilated areas, and wash your hands often for at least 20 full seconds to protect others.
Q: If SU is following CDC guidelines, then why are students required to quarantine for 14 days versus the CDC’s recommendation of 10 days?
A: With regard to length of quarantine, the University is following Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) guidelines of 14 days.
Q: How long does it take to go through the randomized testing process that SU conducts on a weekly basis?
A: The wait times are decreasing each week because of process improvements and everyone becoming more familiar with the process. Testing is conducted weekly during a three-hour period. Our testing team monitors the flow of people coming in for their test and communicates high traffic times to distribute students’ arrival times more evenly over the three hours. The most recent report indicates a 30-minute to one-hour wait time for test takers. Students selected for testing are able to come at any point during the testing window; if the line is long, they can come back later. The wait time is a result of the process conducted by the professional vendor who oversees our testing.
Students’ Mental Health
Q: Has there been an increase in student mental-health issues or concerns due to COVID?
A: While everyone has their moments of being frustrated with the restrictions necessitated by the COVID pandemic, our students continue to show enormous fortitude and resiliency. Data from Counseling Services actually indicate that there has been a significant decrease in counseling appointment bookings by students. Specifically, this is data for number of students and number of appointments for counseling over the last four years, from August to the first week of March:
2017-2018 - 254 students present for 1232 sessions
2018-2019 - 324 students present for 1489 sessions
2019-2020 - 331 students present for 1785 sessions
2020-2021 - 191 students present for 1243 sessions
Q: What is the percentage of in-person, on-campus classes for Spring 2021?
A: Much like the fall semester, seventy percent of Southwestern’s classes are being held on campus, with in-person instruction.
Amended March 19, 2021
Q: What is Southwestern University’s current policy on spectators attending athletics events?
Southwestern student–athletes are allowed to place up to four names on the team’s pass list for each home game. Only spectators on the pass list will be granted entrance to an event. Spectators who receive passes to Southwestern athletic events will be asked to sit in designated areas, follow campus masking and distancing protocols, and be mindful of gathering in large groups before coming to campus or Birkelbach Field.
Q: Why did Southwestern change its previous no-spectators policy?
Since the fall of 2020, the University has followed the guidelines set by the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), which initially banned spectators from athletics events. However, in mid-March 2021, the SCAC revised its guidelines, determining that in light of the national decrease in COVID-19 positivity rates and the increase in vaccination rates, each individual university was free to set its own policy regarding spectators at athletic events. Following the SCAC’s decision, Southwestern President Laura E. Skandera Trombley, in consultation with Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Glenn Schwab, announced the new spectator policy.
Q: Why is SU allowing only four spectators per student–athlete at athletics events on campus?
A: The Southwestern University community has worked very hard to maintain very low COVID positivity rates for the last 12 months. Our success has been built on the support, community, and personal responsibility that are inherent parts of our school’s culture. One of the first health and safety policies adopted by the University was to significantly restrict the number of outside visitors to our campus. Continuing to limit the number of spectators at home games and requiring those spectators to adhere to health and safety protocols while on campus allow us to show support for our student–athletes while signaling that we are still taking COVID and the health of our entire community seriously.
Q: Will the Southwestern University Police Department (SUPD) remove spectators who are not on a team’s pass list from on-campus sports venues?
A: To protect the health and safety of the SU community, SUPD will escort anyone in violation of our limited-spectators policy off our campus.