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What will fall look like?: A Q&A with President Conoley

With Long Beach State looking at a quiet campus of only 1,000 students and faculty per day this fall, President Jane Close Conoley aims to have a bubble-like safety model for the university. 

Compared to the usual Monday-through-Thursday attendance of 25,000 individuals daily, the fall 2020 semester will only see 4% of the school’s pre-coronavirus population coming to campus. 

Although in-person numbers will be low, Conoley maintains that all classes, assignments and learning will be going “full steam.” 

“My biggest fear, in addition to our students, faculty and staff getting sick, is that we become an infection hot spot for all of Long Beach,” Conoley said. “All the public health evidence tells us to keep density low, so that is what we are doing. Long Beach is making progress against COVID, but careless behavior from us could completely undo that.”

CSULB’s minimal face-to-face classes will be offered mainly in a hybrid method to ensure only a small number of students will be in the same place at the same time, according to Conoley. 

Only students and university employees will be permitted on campus, she said, and will be required to complete a health questionnaire to ensure no symptoms of the coronavirus each day prior to arrival. 

The university will be closed to the public in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“I know we can’t create an NBA-like bubble, but that’s the only successful model we’ve seen thus far,” Conoley said, referring to the 2020 NBA Bubble in which NBA players are remaining in an isolation zone to resume playoff games amid the pandemic. “I usually think bubbles are bad, but not during a pandemic.” 

To promote health and safety guidelines, Conoley said there is new signage across campus, along with several hand sanitizing stations and crews frequently performing deep cleans. CSULB has also implemented labeled walkways to indicate which direction to walk on entrances, exits and stairwells for physical distancing. 

Conoley said there will be a “SWAT team” of cleaners dispersed if an infection is reported on campus. In the case that three or more related positive cases are within one building, a several-day process will occur in which the building will be closed and disinfected, and the filters will be vacuumed to flush in fresh air. 

“Low campus density is likely our buffer against infection,” Conoley said. “We need everyone to be involved in taking responsibility for keeping the campus healthy.”

The school will be giving faculty and staff access to paper towels and disinfectants to clean their personal work areas, and everyone will be required to wear masks unless within a private office that guarantees six feet of separation. A supply of personal protective equipment will be available as well.

According to Conoley, students with a verifiable medical condition preventing them from wearing a mask should visit the Bob Murphy Access Center. 

The president encourages the campus community to monitor their symptoms and report any positive COVID-19 tests to Student Health Services, who will be in contact with the Long Beach and Los Angeles Public Health Departments.

“No one should come to campus unless their work or studies require them to be there,” Conoley said. “This will keep everyone much safer.”

Without coming to campus regularly, students lose out on access to various resources such as the library and computer labs. In an effort to combat this issue, CSULB has expanded campus Wi-Fi and student access to software, as well as offered thousands of computers and hot spots to students dependent on these resources.

Instead of the usual 2,500 on-campus residents, this fall semester will only have 348 students living in on-campus housing, all in single rooms. According to Conoley, the majority of these students must live on campus for varying personal reasons.

The common areas will not be available for resident use, and masks will be mandatory outside of the single rooms. There are rooms and services set aside for quarantine situations, if necessary, Conoley said. 

With no communal dining halls and only a few campus food locations open, all meals will be grab-and-go. 

Conoley hopes following these regulations will allow for an increase in residential numbers more quickly.

Students will be asked to get a seasonal flu shot by Nov. 1., Conoley said. This regulation will allow health professionals to differentiate between the flu and COVID-19 in the case that a student presents symptoms as both illnesses share many of the same characteristics. 

“All safety precautions will be in place, but in many ways we’ll be doing what we do with student services and academic experience,” Conoley said. “We’ll just be doing it at a distance until we can safely unite the Beach.”

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