The University of South Carolina announced Wednesday its plan to resume in-person instruction on the Columbia campus for the fall 2020 semester beginning in mid-August.
In a letter to students, faculty and staff, UofSC President Bob Caslen outlined the strategies the university will employ to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 virus on the campus community while delivering an exceptional educational experience to the more than 33,000 enrolled students at the state’s flagship research institution. Full text of the letter is included below.
The announcement follows weeks of focused planning by an interdisciplinary group led by public health, medical and academic experts from across the university. Citing the work of the group, Caslen told the university community the decision to return was based on a number of factors, but ultimately guided by the principle that their safe return is possible when combined with sound public health practices.
“Every step of the way, our top priority is your health, safety and wellbeing. The in-depth, tireless work of the group has given me a new level of understanding and confidence that in-person instruction can safely begin this fall,” Caslen wrote. “As we prepare for August, we recognize that we are embarking on a new normal that will demand from each of us a commitment to public health and safety.”
The plan announced Wednesday also includes a phased in return of some students, faculty and staff during the summer, while regular summer courses will continue to be delivered remotely. This will allow the university to begin implementing key mitigation measures prior to the full return of all students to the Columbia campus.
Debbie Beck, executive director of UofSC's Student Health Services, said collaboration with experts from the university's Arnold School of Public Health and the School of Medicine will continue through the summer and beyond.
“We know the COVID-19 virus will be with us for some time, but we are incredibly fortunate that our campus has a world-class accredited student health infrastructure that will allow us to respond and adapt to new cases” Beck said. “We also will continue to work closely with university, local and state health officials to ensure our mitigation strategies are informed by best practices and designed to minimize risk to our community.”
Highlights of the plan include:
COVID-19 testing available for all students, faculty and staff;
Comprehensive identification of positive cases and contact tracing;
An increase in single-occupancy rooms in residence halls;
A combination of public health protocols, including social distancing for classrooms, lecture halls, social gatherings and sports activities;
Modified dining options;
Space on campus for safe quarantine and self-isolation if necessary;
Strong encouragement of proper social distancing off campus;
Alternative arrangement for high-risk students and employees