Students can plan on safely returning to campus in fall 2021. Oakland University has developed a blueprint for the return of students, faculty, staff and visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal for student life resembling a pre-pandemic atmosphere on campus.
Preventative health measures following CDC guidelines will be required, vaccinations will be encouraged and undergraduate face-to-face learning opportunities in sanitized classrooms will increase to nearly 80% (while preserving student course choice).
“We are hoping to be very close to where we were prior to the pandemic,” said Dr. Britt Rios-Ellis, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and provost.
The plan titled “Grizzlies Together – Again” also includes making additional mental health services available; increasing the number of students living on campus to 80%; offering in-person and carry-out options in campus dining halls; resuming student-centered educational, social and recreational programs in campus facilities; making in-person, virtual and hybrid support services available; and permitting spectators at athletic events as allowed by preventive health protocols and attendance restrictions.
The plan is flexible, and changes will be made according to the outlook of the virus.
“We will be as careful as we need to be and promoting public health and safety of our student population at all times,” Rios-Ellis said.
In order to make this plan possible, the university is requiring all students living on campus to be vaccinated. It is strongly recommended for not living on campus to get vaccinated as well, but not required.
“What we’re really trying to do is, is just get shots in arms. We are really in a race against the variants and we recognize the only way to mitigate the virus is to stop the replication of the virus itself,” Rios-Ellis said. “And the best way to do that, beyond complete isolation, particularly with these stronger variants, is to make sure that folks are vaccinated.”
In order to do this, OU has offered vaccines for students and other campus personnel through several channels — a clinic through Rite-Aid and an OU clinic through the Graham Health Center.
The Rite-Aid clinic distributed first doses for the Moderna vaccine April 7-9 and will be back to distribute the second dose in May. There was also an opportunity for students to receive the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, April 13 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Do your part to help keep the campus safer and return us back to normal,” said Nancy Jansen, head nurse at Graham Health Center. “We all have to participate if we want to get some kind of normal, and I think that’s important. And I can’t stress enough that these vaccines are safe and effective.”
According to Jansen, it’s vital to have 70% of the campus vaccinated to establish herd immunity and safely return to “normal.”
While some are concerned about potential side effects, Jansen assures that minor side effects are normal and signs that the vaccine is working.
“That type of vaccine has been in the works for quite a few years, and it was adapted to use in COVID-19,” Jansen said. “And as they were going through the processes they just overlap the different stages of clearance of testing and so forth, so nothing was skipped.
After receiving the vaccine, it’s important for the recipient to continue wearing a mask, wash their hands and socially distance until two weeks after their second dose — this is in order to give the body enough time to build up immunity. It is also key for everyone to wear masks in public and when around those who are not vaccinated until the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says otherwise.
The CDC allows those who are fully vaccinated to meet privately, indoors in small groups without masks.
The university is hopeful that with these clinics, the OU community will be able to return to campus safely in the fall.
“President Pescovitz is very committed to ensuring that we get as many shots in arms as possible to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Rios-Ellis said.