By Juan Godinez, April 13, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona’s faculty and staff have hardly been able to access the campus during the global pandemic, but now with the university’s Safer Return policies easing up, they’ve progressively been able to safely return to school grounds when necessary.
“It takes collaboration and partnership to keep campus community safe,” said Frances Teves, coordinator of the Safer Return task force. With prior approval from their HEERA manager as well as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, professors are able to safely come to school grounds.
With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of California fully reopening by June 15 and a possible end to the county tier system, Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez, head of the Safer Return incident investigation team, has received several questions from faculty concerning changes to the Safer Return procedures since state restrictions have changed.
“We start to get several texts when the news comes out asking if this applies to our campus policies,” said Gutierrez-Lopez. “We have to remind folks that we’re in LA County and follow their guidelines, so even though we might shift soon we can’t until it’s approved by the county or the LA Department of Health.”
Before coming to campus, staff must visit the Safer Return checklist online and complete the COVID-19 training and daily Health Screener. Once on campus, staff must always wear a face covering, practice social distancing and maintain personal hygiene.
To reduce exposure risks, access to campus has been restricted to only authorized faculty performing essential in-person activities. So as of now, no public gatherings of any size affiliated with the university have been permitted on campus yet. This includes any meetings, conferences, workshops, committee meetings, luncheons, performances orcampus tours.
Gutierrez-Lopez and the incident investigation team are responsible for dealing with any reports of COVID-19 symptoms or possible exposure on campus, as well as notifying any possible cases to LA County.
“Our safe approach prioritizes the well-being of the campus community,” said Gutierrez-Lopez. Ensuring that the incident investigation team works in the best interest of the campus community.
As of March 29, there have been a total of 298 reported and confirmed positive cases among students and employees over the past year.
When a student, faculty, or staff member reports a positive test to the university, they are instructed to isolate themselves, and follow guidelines of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
If they were on campus during the time that they may have been contagious, the incident investigation team works alongside local public health experts to determine possible locations the individual may have visited, as well as identify individuals who may have had a close exposure.
Depending on the circumstances, the university will provide guidance to any students or employees who may have had close contact exposure with the individual who tested positive.
Gutierrez-Lopez says it is vital that staff and faculty are extremely punctual and detailed when filling out their requests to return to campus.
“The campus needs to know where you’re going to be and for how long,” said Gutierrez-Lopez. “It’s critical to minimize any potential movement of the virus.”
According to Teves, most staff and faculty haven’t had any issue following the Safer Return policies, but for faculty members like American literature Professor Liam Corley, the tight restrictions have made lesson plans significantly more challenging.
“For people in the humanities, not having our offices is a real pain,” said Corley. “I have piles of books at home now, but I can’t anticipate and carry away everything I might want to consult for three semesters’ worth of classes in just a few visits.”
However, there is reasonable optimism behind progress being made toward returning to campus as evident by plans of more facilities opening up, such as the dining hall and several new study spaces for students.
“For a long time during the pandemic we were in the most restrictive state, so we’ve had really restricted access,” said Teves. “But in the past month we’ve moved two tiers, so the hope is that we’ll see a phase in reopening for a more robust fall.”
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