A photo of Keeny Hall at Louisiana Tech University from September 2016. (Creative Commons license)
Louisiana college students will return for the spring semester masked up in response to increasing COVID-19 cases due to fast-spreading omicron variant.
All Louisiana college system presidents have committed to keeping the mask mandate in place, state higher education commissioner Kim Hunter Reed said during a Board of Regents meeting Thursday.
Along with a mask mandate, some schools will delay the start of the spring semester or hold classes virtually, while others are requiring students to get their COVID-19 booster shots before they return to campus.
“You’ll see a little bit of variation in how campuses are responding, but all of them have centered on student safety, mask mandate and keeping up to date on what’s happening with this virus,” Reed said.
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New Orleans private universities
At Loyola and Tulane universities, in-person classes have been delayed and students will be required to get the booster as soon as they are eligible.
Tulane’s spring semester was scheduled to begin Jan. 18, but now its first day will be a week later. Loyola is scheduled to begin the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Day, but classes will be online, according to the Loyola Maroon.
Tulane’s delayed start won’t affect students’ Mardi Gras break, spring break or other scheduled holidays, and spring commencement will stay the same as well.
Xavier University students will start their semester online Jan. 10, then transition to in-person classes Jan. 24. Masking is required indoors and outdoors on campus and students are required to get the COVID-19 booster shot if eligible.
Dillard University students will also be required to get their booster to return to campus. They will start their semester virtually on Jan. 10 and return to in-person learning Jan. 18.
The University of Holy Cross is requiring masks indoors on its Algiers campus until further notice. Their spring semester is scheduled to begin Jan. 18, and classes will be offered in-person, hybrid or remotely, according to the university’s spokesperson.
Boosters are not required for students, faculty or staff at the university.
LSU will return to in-person classes Jan. 18, but professors can opt to hold classes in a fully online, hybrid or in-person format for the first two weeks of the semester.
After two weeks, if the rate of positive COVID-19 tests for the campus and surrounding community are less than 10%, classes will resume in person, according to the LSU Reveille. Students moving back into on-campus residence halls must provide a negative test result within five days of returning.
The university is encouraging – but not mandating – that students get the COVID-19 booster. They are already required to be vaccinated, although students at colleges with mandates can provide a written objection to get around the requirement.
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University of Louisiana system
University of Louisiana system schools will not have delayed or virtual starts to their spring semester, Cami Geisman, vice president for external affairs for the UL system, said.
UL system schools do not yet require booster shots, but do require that students be fully vaccinated – which the CDC defines as two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
If the CDC changes their definition of “fully vaccinated” to include boosters, it will automatically update UL schools’ schedules, Geisman said.
The UL system, with more than 90,000 students, includes Louisiana Tech, Grambling State, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Louisiana at Monroe and the University of New Orleans.
Southern University system
Classes at Southern University’s main campus in Baton Rouge will start online Jan. 12 and transition to in-person Jan. 26. Booster shots will not be required, but Southern students are still required to show proof of vaccination.
Students, employees and guests are encouraged to use online services to avoid coming to campus unless necessary, according to the Southern University website.
Temperature checks may also be required in certain areas on campus, classes will be held virtually from Jan. 18 through Jan. 31.
At Southern University New Orleans, classes will be held virtually from Jan. 18 through Jan. 31.
In-person classes at Southern University Shreveport will begin Jan. 26. Students are required to provide proof of vaccination, and an on-campus mask mandate will remain in place.
Louisiana’s Community and Technical Colleges system couldn’t be reached for comment on their Omicron response policies for the spring semester.
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