University Alters COVID-19 Guidelines Amid Rising Cases in County

On Sept. 4, the university released updated COVID-19 guidelines amid reports of outbreaks in the surrounding area. These new guidelines provide the specifics of what to do if a student or employee tests positive. 

One major change from previous years is that the university has stopped tracking and reporting COVID cases on campus this academic year, except for student employees or university staff. There is now no general reporting system or way for students and faculty to know how many cases there are on campus. Students only need to report cases if they work on campus and believe they have been exposed at the workplace through a reporting form in the UR app under “COVID Reporting,” or on the university website. 

“As of August 2023, eight student employees and three University employees have reported cases,” said Stephanie Johnson, University of Redlands senior director of strategic communications, in response to an inquiry by the Redlands Bulldog.

In contrast, there were 154 student cases and 108 staff cases reported during the last academic year, according to a May 2023 version of the university website. 

Despite the seemingly low cases on campus, overall COVID cases are rising in San Bernardino county with a 6.6% rise from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, states the California COVID-19 Dashboard. According to the San Bernardino County website, the county positivity rate this week is 14.6%, which is the highest it has been since December 2022. The positivity rate, as defined by the State of California Department of Public Health, “is calculated as the number of positive molecular tests divided by the total molecular (done by labs, not at home) tests performed.” Most of those tests are done in prisons and state or federal facilities. 

The state positivity rate, as reported on the state of California COVID-19 Dashboard, is 12.8% as of Sept. 16, covering the previous 7 days. This is up from less than 1% in May and June 2023. With cases rising, a new COVID booster shot was recently approved by the FDA and should be available to the general public in the coming weeks and help lower cases, says the New York Times

“We strongly recommend those experiencing any symptoms of illness should promptly get tested,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that COVID tests can be purchased at the bookstore for $7.50. There is also a free drive-up testing location where students can get tested for COVID, strep, and the flu, located a 7-minute drive from campus at 1269 Brookside Ave. It is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

According to the university website, students living on campus who test positive can request a temporary relocation to a wellness room on campus by contacting Public Safety or their Resident Assistant. 

Lane Eppenberger, a Redlands Bulldog reporter who was previously assigned to a wellness room, reports that the rooms are unused dorm rooms in North Hall that have only the provided furniture. Those using them would have to bring their own sheets, towels, etc. These rooms are not exclusive to COVID use, according to Eppenberger. 

Roommates of those who test positive can also request relocation to a wellness room if they feel unsafe remaining in the same room as the infected person. Commuter students are encouraged to stay home if they test positive.   

Since the closure of the campus health center on July 1, any student who becomes more severely ill and needs medical attention is encouraged to visit Redlands Urgent Care at 301 W. Redlands Blvd. The urgent care offers copays of $10 or under for University of Redlands students with a valid ID, according to Johnson. They are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

According to the university’s COVID policy, it is encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask if sick when in common areas on campus like bathrooms or the dining hall and avoid close contact with others. Students are advised to contact their professors to arrange missing class due to illness.  

One professor says the school is not doing enough to help prevent the spread of COVID and other illnesses on campus. She has stressed to her classes the importance of staying home when sick and will even excuse absences for students who miss class due to illness. 

Photo by Kyle Eaton.

Adelaide Hubble is a freshman majoring in environmental studies and minoring in spatial studies. She enjoys writing about club events and any important issues on campus. Adelaide is from Las Vegas and likes to listen to 80s/90s alternative rock and explore coffee shops in her free time.

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