How CSU handled COVID in fall 2021 and plans for spring 2022
Cleveland State said Friday it would be keeping in place in spring 2022 the protocols that the administration said protected the campus community in fall 2021.
“Our strategy has worked, and it has worked well," CSU told the community in an email. “Throughout the pandemic we have kept our students, faculty and staff safe by following the science and making data-driven decisions, all while focusing on meeting the unique needs of our community.”
"The data tell the story," CSU said. "We continue to have one of the lowest infection rates among urban public universities in the country – a rate that is less than one-third of that of surrounding Cuyahoga County."
“Given our success, the consequences of vaccine mandates, and the lack of clarity around pending federal regulations and possible state legislation, we do not plan to change our approach at this time," CSU said.
Behind a campus-wide mask mandate, peer-to-peer education programs and cash incentives for vaccination, Cleveland State brought students, faculty and staff back to campus for a full semester in fall 2021 after on-campus education had effectively been shut down for more than a year.
In March of 2020, CSU students abruptly transitioned to online classes as a wave of COVID-19 infections globally overwhelmed healthcare systems and ground economies to a halt.
While some hoped life would return to normal sooner rather than later, the pandemic had other ideas. As of the time of writing, almost 800,000 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus.
The decision to return to campus in fall 2021 presented a challenge for CSU and colleges across the country. Navigating an ongoing global pandemic is something few students, faculty or staff could have expected to be doing in their lifetime.
Cleveland State's administration put in place a number of health and safety protocols in order to bring life back to CSU’s campus.
Prior to the first day of class, it established a campus masking mandate for all staff and students, while students living on campus were required to be vaccinated.
CSU made a few changes during the semester and maintained a weekly COVID-19 dashboard that would report the number of students and staff in isolation or quarantine.
Throughout the semester, an average of 67 students were in isolation or quarantine each week.
The number of students in quarantine or isolation this semester peaked at 116 during week six.
CSU began the semester with one student in isolation off campus. By week two, 19 students were reported in quarantine or isolation. These first two reports were the lowest of the semester.
COVID-19 cases among staff members peaked at seven in the last two weeks of the semester.
The fewest number of staff members reported on the dashboard was zero in week one.
An average of three employees were in quarantine or isolation each week.
Here, we take a look at the most notable events of CSU’s first semester back on campus.
Week two: Students return to campus
The first dashboard report came on Aug. 19, with one student in isolation.
Students officially began classes four days later, making week two of the dashboard the true start of the fall 2021 semester.
In the first week back, staff and students adjusted to new protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing in classrooms.
A total of 19 students and three employees were accounted for on the dashboard this week.
Week three: Faculty Senate endorses a vaccine mandate
Early in the semester, CSU’s Faculty Senate held a vote to endorse mandatory vaccination.
This decision broke from the administration, who had opted against a vaccine mandate unlike other schools such as Kent State and Ohio State University.
The number of students in isolation rose from 13 to 41 this week.
Week four: CSU President Harlan Sands tests positive for COVID-19
President Harlan Sands announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sep. 9.
Sands cited mild symptoms and credited his vaccination status for his recovery.
However, the CSU administration still opted for a peer-to-peer education program to encourage vaccination rather than mandating it.
COVID-19 cases continued to rise as 84 students entered isolation or quarantine. Five employees did the same.
Week six: CSU reports highest COVID-19 count of the semester; Dr. Forrest Faison resigns
Cleveland State reported more than 100 students in isolation or quarantine for the first time in week six.
A total of 116 students were on the dashboard, becoming the highest mark of the semester.
Meanwhile, Dr. Forrest Faison, the head of CSU’s COVID-19 response team, stepped down from his position.
Faison reflected on his 18 months at Cleveland State, “It’s been a wonderful experience here.”
Week seven: Cash incentives for vaccination are put in place
COVID-19 cases among students decreased for the first time this week while CSU announced cash incentives for vaccination.
Students would be given $50 for each dose of a vaccine while those who are already vaccinated could enter a weekly raffle for $2,500.
The number of students in isolation or quarantine was still in triple digits at 103.
Week eight: COVID-19 cases plummet
Week eight came with the biggest decrease in COVID-19 cases of the semester for CSU.
A total of 53 students were in isolation or quarantine, down from 103 the week prior.
Week 10: School of Communication backs Senate’s endorsement of vaccine mandates
In an Oct. 21 meeting, the School of Communication backed the Faculty Senate’s previous endorsement of a vaccine mandate.
The administration ultimately stuck to its peer-to-peer education program and cash incentives.
Surveys inquiring about students’ experience with vaccines would also be distributed this week.
Week 12: Comparing CSU to other Ohio colleges
During week 12 of the semester, The Stater compared CSU’s COVID-19 response to other Ohio colleges.
The results showed CSU held the highest positivity rate (0.0019%) of the five colleges analyzed that week.
A total of 64 students and one employee entered quarantine or isolation.
Week 15: Omicron enters the U.S.
The spread of COVID-19 fluctuated between weeks 12 and 15 with an average of 58 students in isolation or quarantine each week.
No changes to CSU’s health and safety protocols occurred.
The first case of Omicron, a new COVID-19 variant, was reported in California this week.
It is still too early to know how Omicron will impact the pandemic but early studies are encouraging for those who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot.
Week 16: The fall semester comes to an end
The final week of the semester saw 60 students enter isolation or quarantine.
Seven employees entered isolation this week, as well.
Cleveland State plans to keep its fall 2021 COVID protocols in place when campus reopens following winter break for spring 2022, including masking, surveillance testing program and encouraging any remaining members of the community who aren’t vaccinated, to get vaccinated.