LSU students flocked to COVID testing sites ahead of first day of Fall semester
BATON ROUGE - Monday marks the start of a new semester for Louisiana State University's more than 34,000 students.
Those who've already provided either proof of vaccination or proof that they've been tested for COVID are masking up and returning to campus.
Fall classes are starting amid a resurgence of the virus in Louisiana, which was worsened by the introduction of the Delta variant. But university officials have been working closely with state health officials to implement procedures that will minimize COVID-related issues on campus.
Wastewater testing results revealed concerns
Over the summer, the university used wastewater testing methods to monitor possible exposure to COVID-19. As a result, a notice was sent to members of Greek chapters with homes on Sorority Row, urging them to be tested for COVID-19 at an approved on-campus site before Friday evening.
The university said the wastewater testing results revealed "high traces" of COVID-19 in the campus wastewater system. The university contacted all chapters in the area where the virus was found.
On Thursday and Friday of last week Greek students flocked to several sites in an effort to comply with the testing mandate.
LSU officials confirmed that more than 2,000 tests were performed by the U.S. National Guard at LSU's Student Recreation Complex (UREC).
The university says Greek students were also tested at sites set up at Coates Hall and the Student Health Center.
New COVID-related requirements for Fall 2021
In addition to this testing mandate for Greek students are new COVID-related rules for all students.
The updated protocol includes the university's requirement that unvaccinated students submit to monthly testing, and that masks be worn while on campus.
Additionally, all LSU students are required to provide one of the following items prior to arriving on campus for the Fall 2021 semester:
-Proof of a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 5 days prior to arrival on campus
-Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
-Proof of a positive COVID-19 test result no more than 90 days prior to your arrival on campus
Click here for more information from LSU regarding its updated COVID-related regulations.
Students express concerns, campus officials respond
As students implement these adjustments into their routines, quite a few have concerns.
In response, campus officials indicate they're open to discussing questions with students.
LSU Student body President Javin Bowman said LSU's new System President, William F. Tate IV, is one such approachable university official.
Bowman described Tate as an academic and scholar who is also, "a very good person to talk to."
But before reaching out to President Tate, a number of students first approach Bowman with their concerns.
During a Monday interview with WBRZ's Dana DiPiazza, Bowman was asked what sorts of issues most students wanted to discuss.
He said, "A lot of students' main concerns right would definitely be on COVID and the mandating of the vaccine."
Bowman continued, "That's just because that's been a hot topic across the United States but also it's hit our campus as well and in our state in general. So, that would be some of the biggest problems they've had."
The Student Body President then mentioned a secondary area of concern, stating, "That, and also just making sure we're addressing our sexual assault problems that got brought to light last year. Those are, I would say, the two main things students have been saying.... that they wanted me to contact Dr. Tate on their behalf."
University officials have made it clear that they are willing to work with students in charting out a plan for a successful semester.
During a Monday morning interview with WBRZ, Vice President of Student Affairs Jeremiah Shinn expressed enthusiasm regarding the over 7,000 new students making their way to campus for the first day of class.
He reiterated the university's focus on COVID safety and explained what measures officials are taking to protect everyone on campus.
Shinn said, "We are taking several mitigation strategies. Of course, we are masking indoors at all times. We're recommending things outdoors. Of course classrooms are indoors, but other activities we're recommending be outdoors."
He continued, "Activities that have more than 100 people, we're asking that they reduce the capacity to 50 percent, the capacity of that venue. So, those are a few of the things that we're doing. Of course, washing hands and maintaining social distance."
When asked how LSU will work with students who have yet to provide either proof of vaccine or COVID test results, Shinn said, "We want to provide people every opportunity to comply."
He went on to say, "If they're not able to do that, or haven't done that by 11:59 last night we will remind them but there will be other consequences because this is something serious... this is an expectation of being an LSU student."
LSU indicates that as students embark on this new semester, COVID safety is a priority.