University officials outline health and safety plan for off-campus students

August 11, 2020

Illustration by Deborah Han

Georgetown administration officials discussed the university’s health and safety plan for off-campus students in a virtual town hall on Aug. 5. Administrators, including Chief of Staff Joe Fererra, Chief Operating Officer Geoff Chatas, and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, outlined the university’s plans for COVID-19 testing during the fall semester and the Georgetown University Community Compact. 

As first announced in an email from Provost Robert Groves in late July, all students living on campus, in the Georgetown, Burleith, or Foxhall neighborhoods, or elsewhere who intend on coming onto campus properties during the semester must sign the Community Compact. All students living on or near campus are required to take a COVID-19 test at home before arriving on campus, 72 hours after arriving in D.C, and five days after arriving. Students currently in D.C. will be able to be tested in person, though the university has not yet provided information on how to do so.

The pre-arrival test, with an expected turn around time of 14 days, will be mailed to students’ current addresses, taken at home, and returned through FedEx. As of Aug. 11, two weeks before classes start, the university has not provided information on how to request a test. 

In accordance with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s 14-day quarantine order, all students arriving from states with designated hot spots will have to quarantine regardless of their COVID-19 test results. The university will cover all testing costs for students who sign the compact regardless of students’ health insurance plans. Students will also be provided with a safety kit from the Office of Neighborhood Life, which consists of two reusable cloth masks and a thermometer.

In addition to meeting testing requirements, the compact also requires students to report potential coronavirus symptoms and their temperatures daily through a One Medical app, abide by social distancing and mask-wearing policies, and limit indoor gatherings to 10 people including roommates. “We believe that [the 10 person gathering limit] is one of the most important health and safety measures we can have in place,” said Olson during the town hall. “Large gatherings on and around college campuses around the country have led to outbreaks. It has already happened.”

While off-campus students who signed the compact are allowed onto outdoor university grounds, students will not be able to access facilities including Yates and Lauinger Library. “We will continue looking at those operations as we move forward and we certainly want to bring the university back to life when it is safe to do so,” Olson said.

According to Lisa Brown, the university’s general counsel, students who fail to follow measures outlined in the compact after repeated warnings will be subject to disciplinary action. 

“We have always asked students to follow all university rules whether on-campus or off-campus,” Brown said. “Continued non-compliance will result in [students] not being permitted on campus, and serious and persistent noncompliance may result in disciplinary action.” 

According to administrators, the One Medical app will provide students and Georgetown officials with a colored badge indicating the likelihood a student has been exposed to coronavirus based on the information they input. These badges will designate which students may be allowed into campus buildings and facilities as they re-open. 

In response to concerns about students’ privacy while using the app, Brown emphasized that while the university works with the D.C. government in contact tracing, the app itself limits what information is collected, how long the information is stored, as well as who has access to it. “That information goes just to OneMedical. What the university gets back is just the badge that comes out of that— if you’re symptomatic and then if you test positive,” Brown said. 

University officials consistently emphasized the importance of off-campus students agreeing to the measures outlined in the compact. 

“To some [students], it may feel like it’s a lot. It is a lot, and we recognize that,” said Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Chris Murphy. “But it is what we feel we need to do to live up to our commitment to both our neighbors and our city to keep everyone safe.”

Alice Gao
Alice is a junior in the School of Foreign Service, studying Global Business with minors in Jewish Civilization and Spanish. In her free time, she enjoys excessive baking and having her heart broken by the Philadelphia Eagles.

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