Kent State students will return to campus as university updates spring COVID-19 protocols

Kaitlyn Finchler, General Assignment Editor

COVID-19 virus
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab. (NIAID-RML)

With spring classes beginning Jan. 18, the university announced its plans to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including the distribution of face masks to students and limiting food service in campus dining halls to grab-n-go options through Jan. 31, according to emails sent to faculty, staff and students Monday.

“Our strategy … for safely starting the 2022 Spring Semester is based on the input and advice from public health experts on campus and our local health departments as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ohio Department of Health,” said Lamar Hylton, senior vice president for student affairs in the email to students.

Students living in residence halls will be issued new face masks, and students who live off-campus can pick up new masks at locations across campus.

Campus dining halls will have only grab-n-go meals available through Jan. 31 to eliminate large crowds without masks for an extended period of time, Hylton said.

Anyone planning to host an in-person event is asked to adhere to the Flashes Safe Eight and direct any event questions to the University Events and Protocol team at [email protected]

Pre-existing safety measures will continue in the spring semester. The university recommends wearing a KN95 mask, a surgical mask or a face covering with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, according to the email. Face coverings will continue to be required in university buildings, as well.

Hylton encouraged the Kent State community to get the COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot, both of which are available at the DeWeese Health Center as well as local locations.

“While the vaccine may not stop you from getting the virus, it has proven strongly effective at lessening symptoms and preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death,” Hylton said.

Kent State issued a vaccine requirement in August 2021 that was phased in over three stages during the fall semester. During a November town hall meeting, the requirement appeared to soften, with Manfred van Dulmen saying, “If you have not uploaded your vaccine information or if you have an exemption on file or if you’re not vaccinated you will be invited for regular weekly testing during week two” of the spring semester.

Students returning for the spring semester who live in residence halls are required to perform an at-home test one week before they move back to campus. There is no requirement for students who live off-campus to be tested before they return to classes Jan. 18, nor are faculty and staff required to be tested before returning to work in campus buildings.

A variety of COVID-19 tests and testing locations are available on and off campus, and anyone who comes in contact with someone who has tested positive should get tested as soon as possible, the emails stated.

The emails also cautioned against coming to campus or attending classes “if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, even mild ones.”

Kent State Athletics also issued COVID-19 protocol updates for winter events, including a reminder that masks must be worn in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center, regardless of vaccination status, for all faculty, staff and fans. Masks will be provided if patrons do not have one of their own. Failure to comply with the mask mandate is grounds for removal from the facility, according to the update.

Only water and soft drinks will be available at the concession stands, and all transactions are cashless—credit and debit cards, Flash Cards and declining balance will all be accepted.

According to Kent State’s COVID-19 dashboard, reported cases spiked the last week of fall semester, rising from 77 the week of Dec. 5, 2021 to 170 the week of Dec. 12, 2021. Updated COVID-19 numbers since the end of fall semester were requested through the university communications office, including current vaccination rates for faculty, staff and students, but none were provided as of Monday.

Kaitlyn Finchler is general assignment editor. Contact her at [email protected]