Amid a surge in campus COVID-19 cases, Stanford students braced for new University guidance released on Wednesday in an email from Provost Persis Drell and Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health and Safety Russell Furr.
But the updated restrictions on campus gatherings do not differ greatly from those previously announced in a message to students on Dec. 29 — and despite some confusion among students, the guidance does not impact Stanford’s plans to return to in-person classes on Jan. 18, according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda.
“The new restrictions do not pertain to in-person instruction,” Miranda wrote in a statement to The Daily. “They are an effort to support our return to in-person classes by scaling back other in-person activities for a short period of time to help limit transmission in our community.”
A ban on most indoor events and gatherings across the entire Stanford community is in effect until Friday, Jan. 28, Drell and Furr wrote. They added that, while “essential academic and administrative meetings and trainings” are still permitted, “conferences, social events, religious services and other gatherings generally should be moved outdoors, moved online or rescheduled.”
Indoor house meetings and private residential gatherings are still permitted as long as all attendees wear face coverings. Outdoor events will also require masking and “should allow for social distancing,” Drell and Furr wrote.
Students and student organizations can gather outdoors starting Friday, Jan. 21, as stated in previous University guidance. Students are required to register their parties and gatherings with the University.
Stanford Athletics is restricting attendance at indoor sporting events to families of student-athletes as of Tuesday. Community members who attend outdoor athletic events must wear masks and practice social distancing, Drell and Furr wrote. Stanford Live is also canceling or rescheduling its upcoming indoor performances.
Campus recreation centers and museums will stay open with masking and social-distancing requirements in place “to continue to provide a baseline of activities supporting our community’s emotional and physical health,” Drell and Furr wrote.
Stanford is also reviewing new Santa Clara County guidance regarding a shortened COVID-19 isolation period, according to Miranda and Furr.
The County’s new guidance is aligned with recommendations from California’s Department of Public Health, which state that individuals can exit COVID-19 isolation after day 5 if they receive a negative test and symptoms are not present or resolving. Those who do not receive a negative test on or after day 5 are still required to isolate for a total of 10 days. The County guidance also states that all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should “wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.”
Miranda and Furr wrote that Stanford “will provide updates to the University community” after reviewing the new guidance. They added that “the health and safety of students, staff and faculty are our priority, and we will continue to closely monitor the public health situation and the circumstances around the COVID variants.”
Drell and Furr also reminded students of the University’s testing and mask requirements.
Those arriving on campus after winter break are provided with a self-administered rapid test and must take a Color test twice during their first week back on campus. Vaccinated students must then Color test once weekly, while unvaccinated students are required to test twice weekly. Stanford does not anticipate being able to provide students with additional rapid tests, Drell and Furr wrote, adding that “Color testing remains our main mode of testing for the period ahead.”
Stanford anticipates that the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant will “peak soon and then decline, based on modeling done by health experts,” according to Drell and Furr. They wrote that by limiting campus activities now, the University hopes to “limit transmission of the virus during this window — and, thus, limit the isolation and other disruptions that come with a positive COVID-19 test.”