The Daily Gamecock

Mask, testing policies from fall will roll into spring semester

<p>A row of COVID-19 saliva test vials ready to be assigned to students getting tested.</p>
A row of COVID-19 saliva test vials ready to be assigned to students getting tested.

University mask and testing requirements from the fall will remain in place during the spring semester, according to an email Jason Stacy, the interim vice President of Health and Well-Being and chief health officer, sent on Wednesday. 

Additionally, those who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate for five days and wear a mask for an additional five days. This is in line with updated CDC policies

The university is currently confident its COVID-19 mitigation plan will maintain in-person classes and activities, according to Stacy's email. The university is not currently considering a move to online instruction, according to university spokesperson Jeff Stensland. 

All students, faculty and staff returning to campus must provide either a negative COVID-19 test, a vaccine record or proof of infection within the last 90 days followed by a 10 day isolation period, according to the website. This must be submitted by Jan. 10.  

Masks will continue to be required inside campus buildings and on transportation except while eating. They are also encouraged outdoors when physical distancing is not possible.

“Face coverings have proven effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and we believe they were a key to our past success,” according to the website. 

The update cited the Omicron variant as the reason for the mask requirement staying in place. Interim university President Harris Pastides previously said the university had been looking into relaxing the policies in some indoor areas before the new variant began circulating. 

"While the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 is not yet as prevalent in South Carolina, case counts will undoubtedly increase locally," Dr. Jason Stacy, the university's Chief Health Officer, said in an email to students on Jan. 5.

Free saliva testing will be offered by the school. Students are still required to get tested monthly as part of their assigned groups. Assigned testing will begin on Jan. 18.

The student health center will continue to offer the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to the update. Students are encouraged to upload their vaccine record to MyHealthSpace.

Fully vaccinated individuals who received their booster shot and are asymptomatic are not required to quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive. This policy is in line with current CDC and SCDHEC guidelines, according to the website. 

When unvaccinated individuals are exposed to someone who tested positive, they are required to quarantine for five days and get a test on the fifth day, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. 

Students, faculty and staff who test positive will be required to quarantine off campus. The university will not provide quarantine space for students during the spring semester, according to previous reporting done by The Daily Gamecock.

All students living on campus are required to file a quarantine plan with university housing. Students can submit their quarantine plan on Self Service Carolina by going to Housing Services under the Admissions tab once logged in. 

Emergency arrangements will only be available under extreme circumstances, according to the website.

Illness from the Omicron variant is usually less severe for individuals who have gotten their vaccines and boosters, according to Stacy's email. 

Stensland said USC "will continue to encourage boosters." 

The university said it will continue to release dashboards containing testing and vaccine data every Tuesday.

"The university’s COVID-19 mitigation plan should allow us to maintain in-person instruction and related activities this spring semester while strongly addressing the impact of the pandemic," Stacy said in the email.