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Stanford ‘strongly recommends’ outdoor mask-wearing, prohibits indoor student parties

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Stanford is “strongly recommending” outdoor mask-wearing in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained and prohibiting indoor student parties until Oct. 8 — the Friday of the third week of fall quarter — according to a Thursday email from Vice Provost for Environmental Health and Safety Russell Furr.

“As we prepare for the fall, we’re watching the COVID-19 situation and also working to learn from the experiences of peer institutions that started their fall semesters in August,” Furr wrote.

The updated COVID-19 protocols come as most students plan to arrive on campus for fall quarter in under two weeks, and amid a slight uptick in positive cases on campus due to the continued transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant. 10 positive tests were reported the week of Aug. 23.

The positive cases of COVID-19 on campus “are most commonly tied to arrival from travel and social gatherings,” Furr wrote. But he cited the high effectiveness of last year’s arrival testing system to support the efficacy of the University’s “robust arrival testing protocol” in preventing the spread of the virus. Last week, over 500 RAs arrived on campus for in-person training, with at least one testing positive since.

Stanford is now “strongly recommending” masking in crowded outdoor settings where community members are unable to “consistently” maintain six feet from others. Furr wrote that the recommendation is not intended to “limit your ability to hold outdoor meetings or gatherings” and added that the University “wants our community to take advantage of our outdoor spaces.”

While Stanford is still allowing outdoor events with food, Furr cautioned community members to “use good judgment and maintain distance from others” at such gatherings.

The University is also prohibiting indoor student parties until Oct. 8 — about three weeks after most students are set to arrive on campus — “to help limit the potential for virus transmission in this period when we are returning on-site,” Furr wrote.

He added that private gatherings in students’ rooms are permitted so long as attendance does not exceed four times the occupancy in attendance. Indoor residence hall meetings will also still be allowed. According to Furr, the University plans to release further guidance on parties and indoor residential gatherings next week.

Regular COVID-19 testing is required for students; vaccinated students must get tested once a week, while unvaccinated students must test twice weekly. Stanford is also requiring surveillance testing for fully vaccinated faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars on-site, with the vaccinated testing once weekly and the unvaccinated testing twice weekly beginning Sept. 20.

When a student in a course tests positive for COVID-19, the Registrar’s Office will notify all members of the course without disclosing the student’s identity. Furr wrote that, due to the indoor mask-wearing requirement and high campus vaccination rate, “students and instructors in a class are NOT considered high-risk contacts and will NOT be asked to take special measures.” They will, however, “be encouraged to continue testing, monitor for symptoms, and if they get sick, stay home and get a COVID-19 test.”

Only when an individual has had “high-risk contact” with someone who tests positive for the virus will they be contacted by Vaden Health Services or the Occupational Health Center and encouraged to remain offsite or in their residence until clearance by medical staff. Furr described such contact as “prolonged indoor, unmasked contact” with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19.

When a student tests positive for the virus in a residence with a shared bathroom, Furr wrote that Stanford will notify all residents on their floor via email. If multiple residents in a dorm or building test positive over a 14-day period, the University will notify all residents of that dorm or building.

If a student must isolate or quarantine, Furr wrote that instructors should approach short-term COVID-19 illness “in the same way as any other short-term illness.” He added that while instructors are not required to record their courses, they should “discuss the course attendance policy and how students can obtain course materials if they are not able to attend class due to illness” on the first day of class. According to Furr, the University is encouraging instructors to design easily accessible and shareable course materials.

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Georgia Rosenberg is a managing editor in the News section. Contact her at grosenberg 'at' stanforddaily.com!