By Liana Hardy and Caitlin McLean
For the first time since March 2020, Georgetown University’s full student body, staff and faculty will be allowed back to the main campus for the fall 2021 semester. The return to campus has raised several questions about the policies and regulations students can expect to be in place to protect against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) announced in an April 14 communitywide message that all individuals will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before or upon arrival to campus, the university will still implement further health measures, such as mask-wearing and COVID-19 testing, for the fall semester.
However, since almost all individuals will be vaccinated, the university has decided to ease other policies. In order to help students transition back to campus life, The Hoya has compiled a list of policies and procedures students can expect upon their return to campus.
Masks and Social Distancing
Physical distancing will not be required for students and staff members this fall in either indoor or outdoor areas, meaning that indoor gatherings for classes and student organizations can be held in person. Regardless of vaccination status, however, all individuals must still wear masks at all times indoors on campus.
Students will be able to remove masks in certain situations, including while eating or drinking, or when alone in a private office or dorm room, according to the university’s COVID-19 FAQs. Masks are also required when exercising indoors, meaning students and staff must still wear masks when working out at Yates Field House.
Fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to remove their masks when outdoors. Georgetown will consider easing the indoor mask requirement if COVID-19 rates improve in the area, according to a university spokesperson.
The university will allow outside visitors on campus, such as students’ friends or family members, as long as they adhere to university COVID-19 guidelines and stay outside residence halls.
All students, faculty and staff are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization before arriving to campus. Students were required to submit proof of vaccination to GU360 by Aug. 1, while faculty and staff were required to submit proof by Aug. 9.
International students who do not have access to vaccines authorized by either organization must get vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine upon their arrival to campus. Georgetown community members can sign up for free vaccinations on campus, according to the university’s COVID-19 FAQs.
Students who are approved for a vaccination exemption for religious or medical reasons will be required to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week and complete daily COVID-19 symptom surveys on the GU360 app, as well as adhere to all other campus requirements. Any partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individual will still be allowed to participate in campus activities, though they will additionally be required to wear masks in outdoor spaces.
COVID-19 Testing and Exposure Procedures
Upon arrival to campus, all students, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to take an arrival COVID-19 test to establish a baseline assessment of public health conditions, according to the university’s COVID-19 FAQs.
Testing is free and students can sign up for a test with One Medical, a primary care provider that administers COVID-19 tests on behalf of Georgetown. Testing sites are located at the Leavey Center Ballroom and the Healey Student Family Center. Students can also schedule a PCR test through a third-party provider as long as the test takes place 48 hours prior or within 24 hours of resuming campus activities and they submit proof of a negative test result, according to the university’s testing protocol.
After the initial arrival test, fully vaccinated students will only need to be tested if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms or come in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, though students can voluntarily sign up for free COVID-19 tests on campus if they wish. All students who are not vaccinated must be tested twice a week.
In the case that someone experiences any COVID-19 symptoms, they will be expected to stay home or in their personal dorm until they are cleared to stop quarantining on the GU360 app, regardless of their vaccination status.
Unvaccinated students who are exposed to a person who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to self-quarantine in their private residence; however, vaccinated students and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past three months will not be required to self-quarantine.
Anyone in self-quarantine will be allowed to leave their rooms to do laundry, attend medical appointments, dispose of trash and leave for COVID-19 testing, but they must wear a mask and observe social distancing. Students will be delivered food and drinks on a fixed schedule multiple times a week.
Students, regardless of vaccination status, who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate and will be relocated to a dedicated isolation space on campus. Students who are in isolation will be placed in a room stocked with water and nonperishable food and drinks and will be delivered meals three times a day.
Asymptomatic students will be placed in isolation for 10 days after their positive test date, whereas symptomatic students will be placed in isolation for at least 10 days after their first symptoms appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
In all cases, the university recommends that students create a to-go bag of various items, including prescription medications, clothing, hygiene products and face coverings in the event that a student is unexpectedly required to move into isolation or quarantine because of exposure or infection.
Classes and Grading
All undergraduate classes will be held in person unless approved by the university to be taught online, with the majority of classes anticipated to be taught in person, according to a university spokesperson. In accordance with university masking policy, students will be required to wear masks the entire class period. Professors and faculty will be allowed to remove their masks while lecturing.
The flexible grading option introduced in April 2020, in which students could choose to have their classes marked using the satisfactory, credit and no credit grading framework instead of a letter grade, will be dropped for the fall semester. The university will return to the normal pass/fail option available for sophomores, juniors and seniors, in which students can select the option for one elective course per semester. The special grading option previously offered to students will not count toward the normal pass/fail option for students.
Student Clubs and Activities
Student clubs and sports teams will be allowed to meet in person this fall. The university aims to follow pre-pandemic capacity guidelines for any meetings, events and social gatherings; however, the university can decide to enforce new capacity limitations for indoor or outdoor gatherings at any time, according to the spokesperson.
Students will be able to gather in common rooms, dorm rooms or other indoor facilities as long as they are wearing masks. Resident assistants will enforce the mask policy for students in their dormitories.
Facilities, Transportation, Dining and Other Policies
All main campus and medical center buildings were allowed to open at full capacity and social distancing requirements were dropped for on-campus activities Aug. 2. Students will no longer be required to show a green access badge to enter buildings. During the past academic year, students living on campus who tested negative for COVID-19 received a green access badge, allowing them to enter campus buildings and facilities.
Yates Field House and Kehoe Field will both fully reopen for vaccinated students Aug. 23, according to a university spokesperson. Students will be required to wear masks while exercising inside Yates, in accordance with university mask policy.
All routes offered by the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle will continue service at full capacity. Students will be required to wear masks at all times while on any shuttle, as well as follow specific shuttle boarding and unloading procedures to minimize contact with other passengers.
The Healey Family Student Center and the Leavey Center will be open for students; however, some spaces will continue to operate as COVID-19 testing centers throughout the fall semester, according to a university spokesperson. All campus dining services will open at full capacity by Aug. 25.
To reduce density in Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall, the campus dining hall, students will also have the option to use meal exchanges through Grubhub at select restaurants in the Georgetown area, according to Gizman Wabar, marketing manager of Hoya Hospitality, which oversees meal options on Georgetown’s campus.
“We will also be utilizing Grubhub for meal exchanges this semester to reduce density for safety reasons, and aid in convenience and flexibility for students,” Wabar wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Campus meal plans can be connected to Grubhub by entering their 16-digit GoCard number into the app.”
In addition to the above policies, for the first time, students will be able to access some buildings using a digital GoCard, accessible on their phone. Students are required to set up the digital card at least 48 hours prior to arriving on campus.
Future Plans and Policies
The university may drop mask requirements if COVID-19 does not pose a significant public health danger later on in the fall semester, according to a university spokesperson, though Georgetown is subject to regulations implemented by the government of Washington, D.C., which can factor into university decisions regarding COVID-19 guidelines.
Should conditions result in a physical closure of campus, students will have 48 hours to move out of residences. Each student will be responsible for the transportation, storage or shipping of personal belongings within that time period, according to the Office of Residential Living.
The university will continue to monitor COVID-19 rates on campus and update their regulations accordingly, according to a university spokesperson.
“Our number one priority is the safety of our community,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are continuing to assess public health conditions, including the presence of COVID-19 in our community and here on campus, and will update the University’s guidelines — including mask and gathering policies — as appropriate.”