Dorm life at Long Beach State has changed significantly this fall with several new coronavirus-imposed restrictions in place and housing only at 15% of its usual capacity.
With only about 340 on-campus residents campus this semester, officials said, students will be living in Parkside College only in single rooms. Residents moved in during a span of three days from Aug. 19 to 21 and were each allowed up to three guests to help for about an hour.
“The university has done all we know to do for safety, but if we don’t follow public health guidelines in our personal behavior, all the hand sanitizer in the country won’t keep us safe,” President Jane Close Conoley said.
According to Corry Colonna, executive director of housing and residential life, there will be about 140 incoming freshmen living on campus this fall. In addition, the number of student athletes who live on campus has dropped dramatically, he said, as housing restrictions have become increasingly strict.
Currently, around only 330 out of the total 2,722 beds are being occupied for the fall semester, and no visitors will be allowed in residence halls, including parents and family members.
Conoley said that residential students hold a “big responsibility” in ensuring that the select number of essential students who are granted on-campus access are able to resume face-to-face instruction safely.
“We want to do our best not to introduce any other people into the community that could potentially bring with them the virus,” Colonna said. “We are going to be able to provide housing to our students if, and only if, they follow the rules, prohibit guests, wear masks [and] keep socially distant.”
On-campus residents’ neglect to wear masks or remain physically distant will result in a pivot to fully remote learning, Conoley said.
Housing officials asked residential students to be ready to evacuate if deemed necessary by the university at any point.
“They told us to be adaptable and to be just ready just because, you know, the corona situation could change at any moment,” said Trokon Johnson, resident assistant and third-year marketing major.
Some additional housing changes include only the Parkside dining hall being open, with all meals only available as grab-and-go. Since most food locations are closed for the fall, not many students selected meal plans that have the “flex dollars” option allowing for dining at any 49er Shops eateries.
Johnson, a second-time RA, said the main difference between this year and last year is having virtual resident programs rather than in-person activities, as well as the masked outdoor dining.
“For COVID precautions, we do take out now,” he said. “You’re still allowed to eat with friends, but you have to be socially distant, and once you’re done eating you have to put your mask back on.”
Any residents displaying signs of being sick will be given a sick tray option of chicken noodle soup, Jell-o, juices and crackers. Students in isolation will be able to place orders for food to be delivered.
To maintain health standards, all residence hall restrooms will be cleaned once daily and sanitized twice daily, and disinfectant and hand sanitizer will be left in the restrooms for students to use between those cleanings.
In an effort to enforce physical distancing standards, dorming students must use provided color-coded signs to indicate the restroom is occupied when using facilities within the residence halls.
Housing and Residential Life said they will provide each student with one facemask, touchless tool, a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a mask ear-saver.
The campus has no plans to test any students for COVID-19, including any on-campus residents.
“We cannot and will not prevent students from leaving campus, but we do highly discourage it,” officials said. “Every time a student interacts with others, they increase the risk of viral transmission in their residence hall.”
All students coming to campus must complete daily health screenings before arriving, and all housing students must complete their screenings before leaving their rooms.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, that individual will be moved into a room set aside for isolation in Hillside College, which will be equipped with a mini fridge, a microwave, trash bags, toilet paper and linens. Housing officials maintained that students in isolation will not be permitted back into their original dorm in Parkside until they are cleared to return.
“We can’t cure the coronavirus but we can follow public health guidelines,” Conoley said.
According to Colonna, residential students who fail to follow housing guidelines will be held responsible through student conduct and may be asked to leave housing.
Residents who fail to comply with the guest policy this fall will be placed on residential probation after their first offense and will be evicted after their second offense.
“We have to remember that although most students won’t get very sick from the coronavirus, older staff and faculty can die from the virus. That’s a huge responsibility,” Conoley said. “It’s certainly keeping me up at night.”