Starting today, August 15, Southern Adventist University is requiring everyone to wear a mask indoors, according to an email sent to the student body on Wednesday by Vice President for Student Development Dennis Negrón. The email stated administrators made the decision after discussing how the COVID-19 delta variant may affect campus.
Southern’s safety and information page lists 15 students in quarantine as of August 15. This number decreased by more than half from the number of students quarantined on August 11, which had risen past 30, according to the email.
In a meeting with Student Association members, Negrón said Southern only has 60 quarantine rooms on campus. The number of students quarantined on August 11 raised concerns as many students will be returning to campus for the fall semester later this week.
“If we had the same current percentage of quarantine and isolation cases with a full student body, we could be faced with serious challenges,” Negrón wrote in the email.
The Wednesday email stated the mask requirement will continue through the university’s “critical period” for COVID-19 infection two weeks after classes begin. Southern plans to lift the requirement on September 5 if there isn’t a significant increase in infection or quarantine numbers, according to Negrón in an interview with the Accent.
The email also stated that people will be allowed to remove their masks indoors to eat, teach and work in a private space. Students may also remove their masks in their residence hall rooms, according to the email.
In addition to the mask requirement, the email stated the university will require work meetings to be hosted online and will offer convocation and Vespers credits online.
The University Health Center will increase its capacity for rapid COVID-19 testing and will be offering free vaccinations on August 26 and September 16 on campus, according to the email.
Southern encourages but does not require students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Statistics indicate that getting vaccinated is still the best protection from COVID-19,” Negrón wrote in the email. “With a vaccination, you are less apt to contract the virus and breakthrough cases rarely require hospitalization.”
The email stated administrators will continue to monitor and make adjustments as the situation progresses.