COVID-19 Community Update – Spring Semester
We pray that you have been able to spend time with loved ones during the holiday period. We miss you and look forward to being together again this spring. The University leadership has been meeting regularly while closely monitoring COVID-19 conditions in Los Angeles County, at Pepperdine campuses, and at other institutions. Based on these discussions and an assessment of the current situation, employees should return to campuses after the holiday break on January 3 unless operating under an approved remote working arrangement or otherwise directed by a supervisor. Pepperdine’s schools have varying start dates, with some graduate school programs beginning January 3, while other graduate school programs and Seaver College begin on January 10.
In recognition that Omicron cases are anticipated to continue to increase, the University is putting in place additional protective measures, while limiting disruption to campus activities and reducing the risk of serious complications from infection. Throughout the fall semester, the Pepperdine community consistently maintained a markedly lower positivity rate than the County population in general through our rigorous testing, masking, and contact tracing protocols. In many ways, the demonstrated success of our participation in these processes and procedures has prepared us well for the start of the spring semester.
The health and safety of our community and the quality of the educational experience continue to remain paramount. It was for this reason the university-wide communication on December 10 announced all students would be required to test negative within 72 hours prior to returning to any of our campuses. As detailed below, that requirement remains in full effect. Additionally, in light of the current trends every student must – prior to attending a class in person at a Southern California campus – also receive a negative test result from a Pepperdine screening testing site.
Accordingly, the University is adapting our spring semester start as follows:
- International Programs departures will proceed as scheduled. Further information will be forthcoming from the International Programs Office.
- Graduate courses scheduled to meet in person beginning January 3 will proceed remotely for the first week to allow for appropriate testing as described above, which cannot be provided to these participants prior to the start of the semester. These programs will resume in person instruction the week commencing January 10 based on individual school directives communicated by graduate school deans. Only students who have tested negative may attend in person class,
- Seaver New Student Orientation for those joining our community this spring will require all participants, including family members, to take a rapid antigen test on campus and receive a negative test result before joining activities.
- Classes scheduled to begin in person during the week of January 10 will be conducted remotely on January 10, 11, and 12 to allow students to take a PCR test at a Pepperdine testing site on campus and receive results. We anticipate that classes will resume in person on January 13.
To join in person classes on January 13, students must plan accordingly and test at a Pepperdine testing site on Saturday, January 8 or Monday, January 10. Only students who have tested negative may attend in person class. Detailed information will be sent from each school dean shortly.
Upon returning for the Spring semester, students should take appropriate precautions such as masking and distancing. It is imperative that all safety protocols be followed closely, especially as students await initial test results. To limit close contacts during this time period, the University’s dining service venues will provide meals in a grab-and-go format.
Additionally, we are informed that in a few days, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (“LADPH”) will announce an updated health order for Institutions of Higher Education that will continue to authorize in-person learning and living, even anticipating a rise in cases due to the Omicron variant. To mitigate this anticipated increased transmission, LADPH will likely create several new requirements. LADPH has indicated it may require weekly testing of all individuals regardless of vaccination status – a measure Pepperdine already has in place. LADPH will also likely encourage upgraded masking, utilizing surgical or N95 masks. In order to ensure that faculty, staff, and students have easy access to these masks, Pepperdine is securing an ongoing supply of these masks for our community, adding to an existing inventory of nearly 30,000 pieces. While the CDC has changed quarantine and isolation guidance, California and LADPH have not yet adopted these updates; the University will notify the community when these agencies announce their final guidance.
For in-person programming – including classes, residential living, athletics events, etc. – the University’s ability to remain together depends on the collective effort of all of our community members. While Pepperdine enjoyed a high level of compliance with testing, masking, and contact tracing protocols in the Fall, a renewed commitment from our community is necessary in order to meet the challenges posed by the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
In line with the announced LADPH health order, the University directs our community to carefully comply with the following protocols, so the community may remain together and continue in-person instructions during the spring semester.
- Entry test. All students must complete a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before arriving either on campus or for their first in-person University event. Students may take a PCR or antigen test at a healthcare provider or testing site, or use an at-home test. After testing, students must enter their test results into the Spring 2022 Entry Test Reporting Form. The form contains further instructions based on whether the test result was negative or positive.
The University strongly encourages all faculty and staff to complete an entry test as described above. Faculty and staff do not need to report their negative results.
- Prior to attending any class in person, every student must receive a negative PCR test result from a Pepperdine testing site, as described above.
- Weekly Screening Tests. Pepperdine will continue to require weekly screening testing for all faculty, staff, and students regardless of vaccination status, as recommended by the current Los Angeles County guidance. The University strongly encourages all faculty and staff members to complete the first week’s screening test within 24-48 hours of arrival back on campus.
Masking Requirements: It is imperative all community members adhere to the LADPH masking guidance. Face coverings will continue to be required for everyone regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status in indoor public settings, on public transit (University shuttles, buses, vans, ride shares), and in healthcare settings. As described above, LADPH may announce changes to the type of face covering for these uses.
Booster Shots: The University strongly encourages all eligible students, faculty, and staff to receive an mRNA booster shot (Moderna or Pfizer) before arrival back on campus or as soon as possible thereafter. The University will host vaccine clinics on January 7 and January 13. These clinics will run from 8AM to 12PM, and each will offer both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and booster doses. Click the links below to RSVP for one of these clinics.
January 7: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0F4AA4AC2BA5F5C43-rite3
January 13: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0F4AA4AC2BA5F5C43-rite4
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, with your help, the University is adapting to this next phase, which is likely to include higher case counts with less severe illness. This pandemic continues to be unpredictable; therefore, we will remain flexible, and re-evaluate plans whenever necessary. Whatever is to come, Pepperdine will approach this in faith and in solidarity with our community, ensuring we are as prepared as possible and confident in God’s continuing grace.