BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published by Michel Lycklama of the Idaho Statesman.
Boise State University unveiled a new plan to reopen its campus in the fall, one that goes beyond what other Idaho colleges have released amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Boise State will require all individuals on campus to wear a face mask until further notice, with a few exceptions. Large swaths of students and employees must test negative for COVID-19 before setting foot on campus. And every student, faculty and staff member must complete online safety training to slow the spread of the virus.
“Our goal is to stay open all fall,” Boise State spokesperson Greg Hahn wrote in an email. “And the best way we can avoid a rapid and disruptive outbreak on campus is to take intentional precautions from the start of the semester.”
FACE MASKS REQUIRED AT BOISE STATE
Most schools and government entities, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend the use of face masks. But Boise State took the extra step of requiring them for everyone.
Hahn wrote Boise State took that step because the university packs thousands of students from around the county onto a small, dense campus — near perfect conditions for another outbreak of the coronavirus.
The university will provide two free facial coverings to students, staff and faculty. The Broncos will also sell more around the university at cost.
Limited exemptions to the face mask rule include those inside living spaces, offices with a single person or when an individual is outdoors and can physically distance from others.
“The science is clear,” Hahn wrote. “The risk of transmission from a person who doesn’t know they are carrying the virus drops to 1.5% from 70% if both people in a face-to-face encounter are protecting their faces.”
Everyone on campus also must follow proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, including no hand shakes. And no one can decline to participate in COVID-19 case investigations or contact tracing.
The guidelines also allow Boise State to relax restrictions if the spread of the virus slows.
The university has not settled on any enforcement procedures yet, Hahn wrote. He added Boise State hasn’t decided if the mask requirement applies to fans attending sporting events, like Boise State football games.
The Broncos open the season at home Sept. 5.
COVID-19 TESTING NEEDED
Boise State’s testing regimen also sets a high bar. All employees on campus must test negative for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. And all students living in on-campus housing must test negative before moving in.
Off-campus students don’t need to provide proof of a negative test.
The guidelines note 33% of those infected with COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms, according to CDC estimates. And 40% of transmissions happen before carriers feel sick.
The Broncos partnered with Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center to conduct tests at a St. Al’s testing site or the on-campus health center. Guidelines for testing not done on campus or with St. Al’s is coming, the university guidelines read.
Anyone showing symptoms cannot enter campus until they’ve tested negative for COVID-19. They, and any Boise State roommates, must quarantine until receiving test results. If the test is positive, all members of that household must quarantine for 14 days.
Boise State will monitor and enforce quarantines. How it will enforce those quarantines is not outlined. But agreement to isolation and quarantine is a requirement for admission for all new and returning students, as well as employees.
MIX OF ONLINE, IN-PERSON CLASSES
Boise State released its first reopening plan May 22, detailing it would offer a blend of face-to-face, online and hybrid classes starting Aug. 24. Students will have access to the status of their classes by July 15.
Boise State will move in-person classes to larger venues to space out students and staff. For classes that can’t be moved, like labs, it will use other measures, like alternating access to the room.
Nearly all in-person classes will move fully online after the Thanksgiving break to limit students traveling and transmitting the virus back to campus. The Broncos also plan to require another round of testing for students living on campus before they return in January for the spring semester.
Tuition rates for the 2020-21 school year have not changed.
The Broncos quickly showed the risk of bringing students back to campus when multiple athletes tested positive for COVID-19 before workouts began June 8. The university declined to reveal how many athletes or what sports they played. But only football and women’s soccer players were allowed on campus at the time.