Saturday, August 15, 2020

HSU Students Move Into On-Campus Housing Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Posted By on Sat, Aug 15, 2020 at 6:10 PM

click to enlarge A student moves into a residence hall at HSU on Saturday, Aug. 15. - HSU
  • HSU
  • A student moves into a residence hall at HSU on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Around 225 Humboldt State University students moved into on-campus housing today — with a total of 800 or so expected to be in place by next week — over the objections of the county’s public health officer.

Describing the event as low-key, HSU stated in a release that all those living on campus will be expected to self-quarantine for two weeks due to COVID-19 concerns.

“And in a change announced Friday, the on-campus residents are also being tested for COVID-19 multiple times while they self-quarantine,” a release from HSU states. "That additional testing resulted from a campus appeal to the CSU system and the Governor’s Office, following concerns about capacity raised by Humboldt County Public Health. The state was able to provide additional resources to make the increased level of testing possible. As of Saturday, the county had provided 400 additional tests, with more to come."

A series of emails released in response to a Journal request under the California Public Records Act show that County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich had urged the university to wait until October to bring those students back, a delay she hoped would allow Public Health to increased local testing capacity.

Read more about the email exchanges between Frankovich and HSU President Tom Jackson Jr. here.

According to HSU, on-campus housing will be kept at less than half of capacity, with all rooms being converted to single occupancy and 162 spaces being set aside to isolate any students who become ill.

“Our testing during move-in has gone well this morning, with positive feedback from families,” Vice President for Enrollment Management Jason Meriwether said in the release. “As they return to campus, our students are committed to social responsibility, health, and safety on their path to earning a degree and contributing to society.”

The students’ arrival on campus comes as Humboldt County is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 309 to date and 76 in the first two weeks of August alone.

Read the full HSU release below:


Humboldt State University began welcoming students to the residence halls on Saturday’s move-in day, just a little over a week before the start of a very different Fall semester.

The day offered a sense of how the pandemic has dramatically changed higher education. Just over 225 students moved in, with more to follow in coming days. Many were accompanied by family members, though far fewer than in previous years. As always, Housing staff and others from across campus were on hand to welcome the students and get them oriented to campus living.

Other staff, faculty and administrators found ways to support and greet the students (all appropriately distanced and wearing face coverings, of course). New grab-and-go food offerings, along with samples and giveaways, were available from Dining. All the students, like HSU employees, are being asked to adhere to the HSU Social Responsibility Commitment.

“Parents and families are really appreciating all we have done as a campus related to care for students, testing, the face-to-face, and the way we have been communicating,” said Stephen St. Onge, HSU’s Associate Vice President for Student Success. “It’s definitely smaller than usual, but I can say today has gone very well.”

By next week, the University expects about 800 students to be moved in and living individually in campus residence halls. That’s less than half the capacity of campus housing, a result of HSU’s decision to convert all rooms to single occupancy and to set aside 162 spaces for students to be isolated if they become sick.

The lower number of residents makes for a striking difference in residence halls. For example, 27 students will be living in Cedar instead of the usual 53. In Cypress, there will be 96 students in single rooms instead of filling all 231 beds. Fern will have 22 residents instead of 66, and Campus Apartments will have 63 occupants instead of filling all 206 beds.

HSU is working to provide expanded opportunities for these students, and other students living off campus, to connect virtually through online events and presentations. As the semester progresses, additional campus services will open to students.

All students living on campus are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days. And in a change announced Friday, the on-campus residents are also being tested for COVID-19 multiple times while they self-quarantine.

That additional testing resulted from a campus appeal to the CSU system and the Governor’s Office, following concerns about capacity raised by Humboldt County Public Health.

The state was able to provide additional resources to make the increased level of testing possible. As of Saturday, the county had provided 400 additional tests, with more to come.

“Our testing during move-in has gone well this morning, with positive feedback from families,” said Jason Meriwether, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “As they return to campus, our students are committed to social responsibility, health, and safety on their path to earning a degree and contributing to society.” As for other testing, the Student Health Center will continue to offer opt-in testing for any student as well as testing for students who show symptoms. The Health Center is also periodically testing student-athletes, based on recent guidance from the Governor’s Office.

Virtual instruction begins Aug. 24, and limited face-to-face instruction begins Sept. 8. In order to keep overall density low on campus, most faculty and staff will continue to telecommute either most of the time or entirely. The campus remains closed to the public. Details and updates about the Fall semester are available on the HSU Campus Ready website.
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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