President Armstrong: Fall Quarter Updates and Vaccination Requirements
This message originally appeared as an email to the campus community that was sent out on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.
To the Campus Community:
I am writing to provide updates, to make a very important new announcement for students, and to reinforce some of the key points from my communication last week.
As we prepare for the fall quarter, I recognize the concern and anxiety experienced by many. With the arrival of the Delta variant, breakthrough infections and lower-than-hoped -for vaccination rates in our country, these remain difficult times. And while we recognize these factors, we also know it’s unrealistic for our country to halt “normal” life indefinitely. Those things fundamental to a functioning society—such as education—must continue for the good of us all. For this reason, we join schools and universities across the state and country in resuming on-campus operations this fall.
It is a reality that our environment today poses greater risk than it did prior to the pandemic. The world has changed, and it is an unfortunate reality that COVID will be with us for longer than we would like. However, we can manage and minimize those risks by modifying our actions and making decisions based on science, data, CSU and SLO County guidelines and the advice of medical experts. Making these changes allows us to minimize risk and carefully resume those things that are fundamental to our lives—including providing students with a Learn by Doing, Cal Poly education.
Vaccination is our best defense. I’m pleased to report that our students enrolled for fall are 85 percent vaccinated with a rate of about 90 percent when you include those partially or planning to be vaccinated. That means our student population having a higher vaccination rate than the community in general likely makes campus a safer place—and the vaccination rate continues to rapidly rise as we head toward the start of the fall quarter. I am confident that our employees will match or exceed the vaccination rate of our students. Again, as I have stated in earlier notes – let’s set the bar for vaccination rates for public universities in California and beyond! I am also very pleased that the FDA has given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is available free to students through Campus Health and Wellbeing, and to staff through their healthcare provider or local clinics. I strongly encourage all students and employees who have not yet responded to report their status and strongly consider or reconsider vaccination.
Last year, prior to vaccines being in place, our campus understandably experienced COVID cases among students. However, due to masking and following health and safety protocols, there were no reported cases of COVID being spread as a result of an in-person class. Today, with the high rate of vaccination for our students and employees, mandatory masking indoors and continued due diligence with hygiene protocols, our campus can improve upon the already high degree of safety in the classroom and on campus generally.
Still, there is more we can do to safeguard our community. Given the impact of the Delta variant, today I am announcing that, out of an abundance of caution, we will require ALL students – regardless of vaccination status – to present / upload a negative COVID test taken up to 72 hours prior to move-in on campus or prior to your first day on campus. (If you are taking only virtual classes and will not be on campus for any reason or for any amount of time during fall quarter, you are exempt.) Test results uploaded must be a laboratory report containing the identity of patient, date and time of test, type of test, and testing facility. For move-in we prefer PCR or molecular tests but will also accept antigen or rapid tests performed by testing facilities. If, for some reason, a student cannot secure a test, we will provide testing on site upon arrival for move in, attending class or otherwise visiting campus. Please note that students who tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days and are 14 days post-positive test can upload evidence of such test—further details will be provided.
As noted previously, any medically and religiously exempted unvaccinated students will be required to test twice a week until the data, prevalence of COVID-19 and vaccination rate allow us to lower the frequency. Unless dictated by changes in public health, vaccinated students will not be asked to test unless exposed or showing symptoms.
It is important to note that as was our practice during the last academic year, we will shut off access to the Cal Poly Portal for students who do not test or otherwise do not comply with vaccination policies.
As a reminder, our strategy for keeping ourselves and each other safe this quarter has four parts:
Vaccination — Everyone on campus must vaccinate or claim an exemption.
Masking — Everyone must mask indoors, except when doing so would be unsafe or impractical, with the exception of instructional faculty who are vaccinated, who may choose to wear a face shield and drape while teaching.
Hygiene — Everyone will need to continue following good pandemic hygiene, including regularly washing or sanitizing hands and wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as appropriate.
Testing — Free, on-campus testing will be available for unvaccinated, asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff beginning early September. Employees who are vaccinated, believe they have been exposed and are asymptomatic may also test on campus. Symptomatic students can get tested at no cost through Campus Health and Wellbeing. Symptomatic faculty and staff should test through their healthcare provider.
If you have questions about these policies, please contact Student Affairs (students) or University Human Resources (faculty and staff). Please do not contact Campus Health and Wellbeing with questions about CSU or university policies—they are busy providing care and aren’t responsible for setting the broader rules. For further information concerning COVID and Cal Poly’s response, please go to https://coronavirus.calpoly.edu/.
In closing, thank you for your patience and diligence as we adjust our policies to keep everyone safe while also ensuring that we deliver the highest-quality education.
Jeffrey D. Armstrong