Monday, June 1, 2020; 9:00 a.m.
Fall at LSU: Roadmap to Opening
Dear LSU Community,
Greetings and good wishes. As LSU prepares to move into Phase 2, pending the Governor’s decision to do so, I want to let you know that things are going very well. We have successfully brought back to campus about 25 percent of our employees and are continuing to take precautions to help ensure their safety. When Phase 2 begins, we will bring back approximately 50 percent of employees, and in the coming months, we plan to move to Phases 3 and 4, which will move us closer to normal operations. Of course, as we move forward safety is our guidepost and number one priority. And, we would never have made the progress we have achieved without your hard work, dedication, and compassion. Thank you.
We are also looking ahead to the fall semester; we are excited to say that we plan to be open and ready to hold classes on campus. We are planning for all facilities and buildings to be open and accessible to our students, faculty, and staff, but, as noted, we will continue to strive to protect the health and safety of the LSU community. This means that things may look a little different on campus, but that’s okay. Together, we will navigate the challenges that COVID-19 present to us, and we will adjust our policies and protocols as needed. While the public health situation may impact the way we do things, know that we will still continue to provide our students with the quality educational experience that we have pledged to give them.
In order to keep you fully apprised, below are the current plans for the fall. These plans are subject to change if the situation with COVID-19 changes, but we wanted to let you know where we are at this time regarding our strategies for Fall 2020. Please know that not all decisions have been made yet, as we are still closely monitoring our own phased approach at reopening campus, as well as monitoring the state of Louisiana’s success at reopening. We will also follow all CDC and state guidance that is in place this fall.
Physical Distancing – We expect that even in the fall, the CDC and the state of Louisiana will still recommend physical distancing of 6 feet whenever possible.
Face Coverings – We anticipate that in the fall, the CDC and the state of Louisiana will still recommend face coverings. Face coverings are especially important in spaces such as hallways, elevators and stairwells, which are not large enough to provide 6 feet of space between all individuals. Therefore, we expect that face coverings will be required of the entire LSU community this fall. We urge everyone to try to obtain face coverings now, since they can be difficult to find and may take some time to receive after you order them, and since one will probably not be enough for an entire semester. We should all take care to wash cloth face coverings daily, learn how to wear and remove them correctly, and never touch the outside of the face covering and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes. Learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wear-cloth-face-coverings.html.
Cleaning – We will continue to operate using the increased cleaning protocols recommended by the CDC to ensure that all campus buildings are cleaned and sanitized consistent with that guidance.
Hand Washing/Hand Sanitizer – We will continue to recommend that everyone wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or, if hand washing is not feasible, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. As individuals, we can all help keep each other safe by carrying hand sanitizer and wiping down surfaces to augment the cleaning processes.
We are planning on randomly testing between 10 and 16 percent of the populations of all LSU System campuses statewide for COVID-19 this fall. We anticipate that participants would be selected randomly from lists of students and employees, and those selected would be encouraged to participate in the testing, although, not required. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 would be interviewed in an effort to determine who they have been with recently so that accurate contact tracing can be achieved. Every effort would be made to locate and test anyone believed to have been exposed. The goal of this plan is to determine the incidence of the virus on LSU’s campuses and to locate and mitigate any possible clusters of the virus.
Anyone who tests positive for the virus should contact their healthcare provider immediately, notify the LSU Emergency Operations Center at firstname.lastname@example.org and should follow the guidance of their healthcare provider regarding self-isolation. We will offer assistance to students who test positive to ensure they can isolate properly, to check on their condition, and to provide guidance regarding make-up class work. Human Resource Management will provide guidance to any employees who test positive regarding questions about leave time and health insurance.
We are hoping to provide a voluntary mobile app to our community that would include a symptom checker for users, as well as a contact-tracing function to help those who test positive identify anyone they may have inadvertently exposed. As we work toward achieving these plans, we will keep the LSU community updated.
We are also offering antibody testing to our employees as they are returning to campus in phases. The cost of virus and antibody testing is covered for employees on the LSU First health plan. Employees on a State Office of Group Benefits health plan should check with the LSU Office of Human Resource Management on testing coverage.
To reiterate, our plans are evolving but this is our current thinking.
Academic Calendar – At this time, we are planning to start the fall semester on schedule. We are exploring holding classes on campus through Thanksgiving, and after the Thanksgiving holiday, having students finish the semester online and not return to campus. This would prevent anyone who traveled over Thanksgiving and may have been exposed to COVID-19 from returning to campus and potentially exposing others.
Classroom Spaces – We are closely looking at all classroom spaces on campus to find ways to spread students out in classrooms. Whenever possible, smaller classes will be held in larger rooms so that students can physically distance. In areas where this is not possible, face coverings will be required, especially in hallways, stairwells, elevators and other confined areas in which 6 feet of physical distance is not possible to achieve.
Hybrid Courses – Some of our fall course offerings may involve a hybrid of in-person and online instruction. Details will be shared as soon as possible.
Lab Courses – Classes that require laboratory work or experiential learning will have requirements for faculty and students to maintain 6 feet of physical distance where possible, and to otherwise wear face coverings.
Student Services – Many campus units have regular interaction with students on a daily basis, and we are working to determine the safest way to ensure that these units can continue to effectively meet student needs. We are planning to offer these services through a hybrid of in-person and online strategies, and will be sharing guidelines with these units in the near future so they can plan for service-delivery in safe but creative ways.
Administrative Offices – Campus offices will follow the CDC and Louisiana guidance for physical distancing and proper hygiene, and will use technology to conduct business as appropriate and necessary, including holding remote meetings.
Public Spaces – Common spaces such as the Union, the Library, the Bookstore and the Dining Halls will be open this fall, but will likely have capacity restrictions or otherwise need to operate differently. We are planning these changes now and will communicate those as soon as possible.
Events – Activities such as Move-In Day, athletic events, student organization events, Greek Life events and other large gatherings this fall may be altered or postponed. Plans are being made now for how these events will look, and decisions will be announced in the coming weeks. We are monitoring LSU’s and Louisiana’s phased re-openings to help us determine how to safely hold these events.
Research Spaces – Faculty have submitted safety plans for the fall to ensure compliance with health and safety guidelines in laboratories, studios and other spaces. During the first few months of the pandemic, research activities were reduced to only those conducting COVID-19 research and those necessary for maintaining valuable laboratory organisms and instruments. Throughout our phased reopening, we have increased the number and types of research facilities that are coming back online, and we will continue to do so from now until the fall, as research is central to our mission as Louisiana’s flagship university.
Creative and Performing Arts – This fall, we anticipate that studios and other spaces for creative and performing arts will be open, all in accordance with CDC safety guidance and state guidelines.
We will continue to keep you informed as we make decisions for the fall, and we appreciate your patience as we work through these issues. We realize we don’t have all the answers at this time, but we want to work carefully and deliberately to create effective solutions to these challenges. We will be using information learned over the coming weeks to help us and we want to include information that we gain from our reopening plans. As we learn more, we can make better decisions for our campus community. We wish you a healthy and safe summer, and we’ll be in touch as we know more.
LSU Interim President and Professor of Law