Cal Lutheran Opened for In-person Learning Prematurely


Hannah Anderson, Reporter

California Lutheran University opened campus prematurely and should have waited for COVID-19 cases to go down before reopening campus. If they waited for cases to drop before allowing students to return to school, they would have avoided the risk of spreading the virus.

This pandemic has brought us many hardships, and many people have questioned if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making the right choices. Keeping institutions open with the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has thrown many curveballs at universities planning teams. COVID-19 planning teams have to figure out how to re-open campus with new guidelines because the virus is rapidly spreading.

Cal Lutheran has been attempting to lower campus COVID-19 cases, implementing protocols to navigate a safe return to campus. However, in my opinion they could have taken a few more precautions by waiting to open up the campus.

Cal Lutheran’s Associate Vice President of Planning & Services Ryan Van Ommeren said that protocols put in place on campus reflect County, State, and CDC guidelines.

Van Ommeren said the school is taking safety measures such as requiring indoor masking with the encouragement of high-quality masks, having informal guidance to hold events outdoors, restoring all indoor dining with some limited seating in Starbucks, and eating at events strictly held outside.

Although our campus opened up for in-person learning in accordance with previous or present County guidelines, these protocols haven’t stopped the case numbers from increasing. Almost all the dorms on campus are at full capacity, where there can be up to six people living in tight spaces.

The Omicron strain is easily transmitted making it difficult to pinpoint where individuals have caught it. Full capacity residence halls are one place the virus can easily spread and infect countless students. I agree that allowing students to live in dorms at full capacity is important to provide them with a full college experience, but can be a big risk.

Cal Lutheran has not been the only university that has dealt with rising COVID-19 cases since the start of spring semester .

According to an article published by National Public Radio (NPR), “At Penn State University, the positive case count hit a 12-month high. Cases are spiking on college campuses because, despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, most schools are beginning their spring semesters in-person.”

Opening campus for the second in-person semester since the pandemic comes with the risk of students arriving at school carrying COVID-19 without even knowing. It is still possible for students to bring COVID-19 to campus through false negative tests or failure to follow correct testing protocols.

Some universities are dealing with spikes in case numbers by loosening their protocols when it comes to students who test positive.

The article “Some Colleges Loosen Rules for a Virus That Won’t Go Away” by Stephanie Saul and Anemona Hartocollis published by The New York Times said, “Harvard is instituting what it calls an ‘isolate-in-place policy’ meaning that students who test positive would, with some exceptions, stay in their dorm rooms, even with roommates.”

The idea of quarantining in dorms may help people who test positive feel more comfortable, but it could also be a sign that universities are resuming in-person school too early. It is a big risk opening schools when the new strand is rapidly spreading and students are living in close quarters.

If classes were offered virtually or in hybrid options, students would be able to choose if they remained on campus or not. Allowing for more space in the dorms. It can be challenging to minimize the amount of students living in the dorms when classes are resumed to an in-person education system.

“We have a free test site on campus, and I would encourage that individuals occasionally utilize the service,” Van Ommeren said.

Some tests may take a few days for the results to come back, which is a risk for those students who may have COVID-19, and are spreading it to others while waiting for their results.

Cal Lutheran’s testing can take up to several days to provide students with their result. I believe the university should find a way to get COVID-19 tests back to students much faster if they want to rely on routine testing to keep us safe.