Cal Lutheran strives to protect as COVID-19 brings nationwide uncertainty

Kaeleah Isaac, Reporter

As of March 20, there are over 180,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 7,000 fatalities globally, with a reported 10,000 confirmed cases across the U.S. and 150 fatalities and as of Sunday, March 22 there has been one COVID-19 fatality in Ventura County.

“I am in meetings daily and have worked every day, including weekends, for almost 4 weeks,” Director of California Lutheran University’s Health Services, Kerri Lauchner said. “Please know that the university is working very hard during these stressful times to keep the campus community safe.” 

Lauchner said Health Services currently has the tools to test eight people for COVID-19, however, as the university transitioned into its social-distancing plan, effective March 13, students are vacating campus. Residence Life has provided students until March 31 to vacate their on-campus housing. 

“As is being reported in the news, lab tests and personal protective equipment for healthcare providers is in short supply,” Lauchner said. “We hope this will change.”

Lauchner is a stakeholder in the advisory committee regarding Cal Lutheran’s response to COVID-19 and helped advise the final decision of closing the Cal Lutheran campus for the rest of the semester.

On March 20, Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin created a “Stay Well at Home” order, “ordering all residents of the County of Ventura to stay inside their residences, and immediately limit all movement outside of their homes beyond what is absolutely necessary to take care of essential needs.”

The county order followed California Gov. Gavin Newsom declaration of a statewide “stay at home” order on March 20.

“Stay at Home” provides that residents may not leave their homes unless for “essential services,” a list of businesses considered essential is available here. This order applies to all 40 million California residents. 

In a letter addressed to President Trump, Governor Newsom said that he believes an estimated 56% of California residents, or 25.5 million individuals, would be infected by COVID-19 over an eight week period. 

In Southern California, Los Angeles Unified School District, Ventura Unified School District, Conejo Valley Unified School District and many others have closed their doors to students following the increased outbreak of the virus. Some administrative staff and teachers remain working on campus.

 Cal Lutheran students who returned home in other states have found their younger siblings are out of school as well. States such as Washington have enforced closure of all public schools statewide. Currently, only Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska and Wyoming have not closed down all schools.

Nearly all universities nationwide, including Cal Lutheran, have closed on-campus operations and switched to online distance learning to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

President Donald Trump declared a nationwide state of emergency during a press conference on March 13. Since then, the Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has advised people to not gather in groups of more than 10. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans cancel all social gatherings of 10 or more people for at minimum the next eight weeks. 

The situation regarding the virus is being monitored by health officials and is changing daily. 

Cal Lutheran’s social distancing plan includes transitioning all classes online and cancelling all campus events of more than 10 people through May 20. Residence halls will remain open to students who demonstrate extenuating circumstances. 

According to the Office of the President, students will receive prorated room and board credit, and those with meal plan credits will be reimbursed. 

All on-campus services including Pearson Library, The Writing Center, Math Tutoring Center and College and Career Center will offer online services. The Forrest Fitness Center and William Rolland Stadium will be closed until further notice.

Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association cancelled all conference competitions for the rest of the spring semester, meaning that all Cal Lutheran sports teams are now no longer able to compete in formal conference games and competitions. 

“Cal Lutheran teams can compete in non-conference competitions as long as the total number of athletes and spectators is not more than 100 [people],” Kimball said. 

Cal Lutheran has also made the hard decision of canceling the annual Commencement and Graduation ceremony held in May. However, during a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday, March 18, Kimball said administration is considering either a virtual option or postponing the date commencement is held. 

“The Class of 2020 has accomplished much and been through a lot,” Kimball said. “They deserve celebration, and we will find ways to recognize and congratulate them.”

Updates on COVID-19 and its effects on the university will continue to be posted at