COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – With the Delta variant spreading across the country and state, officials at the University of South Carolina (UofSC) have shared their plans to “get back to campus”.
Classes start August 19 at UofSC. School officials said they anticipate an increase in active cases of COVID-19 among students in the first week or two after returning to campus. They said they were ready for this increase in new cases.
Officials said they were following CDC and DHEC guidelines.
UofSC Acting Chief Health Officer Dr. Jason Stacy and Acting Provost Dr. Stephen Cutler explained what the school is doing to prepare during a briefing with reporters on Friday morning:
Vaccine strongly encouraged, not compulsory
One of the big differences this fall from 2020 is the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine. Officials said vaccines cleared for emergency use by the FDA are safe and effective. They encourage students and staff, if they are able, to get vaccinated. Dr Stacy and Dr Cutler said the UofSC administered the vaccine to students on campus and parents during visits throughout the summer. The school has many vaccines and has launched a #GarnetandVaxxed campaign. Officials said they would encourage students to get the vaccine. No details on these incentives were available when we spoke with Stacy and Cutler.
Proof of vaccination or negative tests required before returning to campus
Officials said to return to campus, students living on campus will need to upload an image of their immunization card, proof of a negative test within 10 days of returning, or a previous positive within 90 days. the date of their move in. Students living off campus, faculty and staff must have this information by August 18. So far, Dr Stacy said 12,500 students attending UofSC this fall have reported being fully immunized. Officials said they expected more students to continue reporting their immunization status until the start of the semester. On average, 1,000 students per week download their vaccination record.
Saliva-based tests remain available
Dr. Cutler was the Dean of the College of Pharmacy at UofSC before taking on the role of Interim President. He has overseen the implementation of saliva-based testing for COVID-19. The UofSC was one of the first schools in the country to set it up and operate. Cutler said it was a success. He said it will remain an option for students and faculty this fall. In the spring, the UofSC reported a 1% positive rate and attributes this to testing and contact tracing strategies in place.
No face covering requirement
Stacy and Cutler said there would be no mask requirement at university facilities except the Center for Health and Well-Being and the Thomson Student Health Center and on shuttles and buses. In the budget enacted in June, lawmakers included a provision that would remove funding from public colleges and universities that require face coverings. Officials said face coverings are encouraged indoors when social distancing is not possible and they strongly encourage students and faculty who are not vaccinated to wear face covers.
Dr Stacy and Dr Cutler said they will continue to educate students and faculty on the Delta variant. They said the variant had already been detected within the campus community.