On Dec. 28 and 30 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) released new protocols on COVID-19 in light of a steady uptick in cases that began last month. In compliance with these regulations, LMU has updated students approved for campus access for the upcoming spring semester on new safety and testing information.
The DPH Protocols for Institutes of Higher Education (IHE), as of Dec. 28, updated its COVID-19 regulations in their IHE Exposure Management Plan. This plan continues to stipulate that all confirmed cases isolate themselves, that all individuals exposed to the infected are identified and initiate self-quarantine and introduces that all quarantined individuals “have access to or be tested for COVID-19.”
The COVID Support Team at LMU must report to the DPH all confirmed cases who had been on campus “at any point within 14 days prior to becoming ill and persons on campus who were exposed,” whether they live on campus or have campus access. If students or staff living off campus test positive for the virus, they need only be reported if they had been on campus and interacted with others from their institution within 14 days prior to becoming ill.
Under the terms of the new plan, an exposed person is now defined as anyone who was within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more in a 24 hour period. Exposed students and staff are to self-quarantine for 10 days from their last contact with the infected, “even if they receive a negative test during their quarantine period.” All who remain asymptomatic are released from quarantine after the 10 day period.
Effective Jan. 4, surveillance testing is mandatory for LMU students, faculty, staff and others permitted access to campus. Disclosed in an LMU community message on Dec. 9 and reiterated in an email from Public Safety on Jan. 4, this testing is in compliance with the current Phase of LMU, Phase 1, as an “effective infection control strategy.”
Those subject to testing are categorized into three groups based on the frequency of testing. Those who visit campus one day per week must test once per week, those who visit two or more days per week must test twice a week on non-consecutive days and unique testing intervals are designated for those visiting campus on a sporadic or rotating schedule, such as student athletes and athletics coaches. A three to four day interval is mandatory for those testing more than once per week.
Those who are allowed on-campus this semester include a limited number of student workers, student athletes, students provided with access to necessary facilities and some faculty members. There is also a population of students who live in on-campus housing.
Jonathan Grace, senior journalism major, is in the third testing group. He works with the athletics broadcast staff and comes into contact with the basketball team during games.
"I've done three tests now with LMU and it's a very smooth process overall," said Grace. Burns Recreational Center has been converted into a testing facility and the registration and check-in is done online and using scanned QR codes. "You actually administer the test yourself under the supervision of a medical professional, so the whole process is contactless."
Grace is not opposed to the regular testing. "I think it's smart and gives me a little peace of mind that the people I am working with have all gone through the same regular testing as me," he said.
Testing appointments are to be scheduled ahead of time online and failure to comply with these measures may result in the revocation of campus access and participation in on-campus activities.
Grace sees the mandated testing as a necessary measure that safely allows certain campus activity to carry on. "I recognize that the university is trying to keep everyone safe. I also think we all have a responsibility to do what we can to slow the spread of the virus and keep each other safe," he said.
This comes as Los Angeles County is designated as Tier 1 (widespread) risk level. As of Jan. 12, L.A. County reports 932,697 total cases of COVID-19 with 12,617 new cases added Jan. 11. The positive test rate is 20.5 %.
In the email to returning community members, Public Safety reminded individuals to complete the Safe at Work Plan and Policies Training and submit their temperatures daily through Lion Health Check. General COVID-19 guidelines were also reinforced in the email, such as wearing a mask at all times, distancing from others by at least six feet and the prohibition of visitors on campus.