Officials at the University of Oklahoma are looking toward the start of the spring semester with the holidays in the rearview mirror.
Last semester, OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said the safest place for students to be was in the classroom. The challenge now: students returning from winter break.
“I think all of us are concerned about the amount of travel that has happened over this recent holiday,” Dr. Bratzler said. “We know it’s going to be very, very important that we maintain our vigilance.”
The university has pushed the start of the spring semester by a week to Jan. 25 and eliminated spring break for the Norman campus.
They plan to have 20,000 to 30,000 rapid antigen tests on campus this spring. According to the university’s dashboard, OU tested fewer than 10,000 students, faculty and staff in the fall.
Dr. Bratzler said the keys to keeping the university safe have been making masks mandatory, limiting class sizes and ramping up testing.
“We were working under the assumption that when the students, staff and faculty were on campus, there would be infected students, staff or faculty that would be in our facilities,” Dr. Bratzler said. “You cannot screen out COVID-19. You can’t keep people out by taking temperatures and screening symptoms.”
Dr. Bratzler said the focus is now shifting to getting the COVID-19 vaccine to campus.
“The campuses will follow fall into Phase 3 of the Oklahoma State Health Department’s vaccination plan,” Dr. Bratzler said. “We hope to vaccinate large amounts of students, staff and faculty to reduce the transmission of the virus once we have that opportunity. We’re making those plans now.”