Since the beginning of the pandemic, safety protocols at Wayne State have shifted as more is learned about COVID-19.
As some classes resumed to in-person sessions for the fall 2020 semester, WSU announced safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
WSU also established metrics to help guide science-based decision-making, which has played a role in the university’s recent decision to depopulate campus starting Wednesday, due to rising COVID-19 cases in Detroit.
By fall 2021, if COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, more students may be able to return to campus for in-person classes, said Interim Provost Laurie Lauzon Clabo. Safety protocols like social distancing and mask use will still be in place.
“WSU will undoubtedly have many classes return to a strong on-campus presence,” said Darin Ellis, associate provost for Academic Programs and associate vice president for Institutional Effectiveness in a Feb. 17 email to The South End.
Ellis expects a decision about a return to campus to be made in the summer, he said. But the public health subcommittee is following the best available science to set criteria for exactly how and when university operations —including classes— will change as the world emerges from the pandemic.
Since the beginning of fall 2020, completing Campus Daily Screeners, wearing face masks and practicing social distancing are required on the WSU campus. Students were also required to complete Warrior Safe and COVID-19 virtual training modules before returning to campus for the fall 2020 semester.
To prepare for the return, WSU arranged furniture in classrooms in adherence to social distance guidelines. NanoSeptic wraps were also placed on high-touch surfaces, such as door handles and elevator buttons. Signs reminding students of social distancing and masking were placed around buildings.
The entrances to buildings now have CDS scanners and the Student Center only has one open entrance where a student sits, checking OneCards and CDS. In the Student Center, student employees walk around the building to ensure students are following guidelines as well as speaking on the intercom every hour to thank students for following them.
“Additionally, the Student Code of Conduct was revised to include 4.20, which specifically added failure to follow public health directives from the University, such as the mask mandate, as a chargeable offense under the code,” Ellis said.
While the number of people normally on-campus has decreased, many students live in campus housing and have been getting tested bi-weekly.
“Testing is in (AWD) and Mort Harris now,” said Zachary McPherson, a freshman majoring in biology. “You can just show up and get tested, which is way easier.”
McPherson currently resides in Towers Residential Suites, where masking and social distancing are required. In elevators, only two people are allowed at a time, and they must stand on opposite ends of the elevator to maintain social distancing.
A change from bi-weekly to weekly testing occurred at the beginning of the winter 2021 semester, due to travel over winter break.
“I think we are adjusting the cadence of testing —the frequency of testing, based on changes in positivity rates,” Clabo said. “So, as positivity rates go down, we feel that we can increase the interval between testing and as positivity rates go up then we increase the frequency of testing.”
In-person classes are also subject to random weekly testing, Clabo said. This includes science labs and clinicals. Faculty and students are subject to random testing.
“That will allow us to determine if anything is moving close to our metrics, which would cause us concern, or whether things are staying stable and healthy,” Clabo said. “At the moment, things are still staying stable and healthy.”
Testing centers for individuals without symptoms have also expanded during the academic year.
While first only available at the Campus Health Center, now testing is available in dorms on certain days of the week, the Mort Harris Recreation and Fitness Center throughout the week and in Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments for residents.
Changing testing sites “is making testing more accessible,” Clabo said. “Using those large volume sites allows us to test more people each week and that’s always a good thing.”
Roxanne Finniss is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Quinn Banks, The South End's multimedia editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.