The city will share an updated list of states deemed high-risk on Aug. 10. The District defines a high-risk area as one that is seeing new daily cases exceed 10 per 100,000 residents. Maryland and Virginia meet that criteria, but visitors from those states are exempt from Bowser’s order.
Georgetown University will be inviting about 2,000 students to live on campus; officials reviewing the mayor’s order will make sure the reopening plan they released this summer continues to comply with the city’s policies, said Ruth McBain, a spokeswoman for the campus.
Leaders at Catholic University are in close conversation with Bowser’s office, said Karna Lozoya, a school spokeswoman. American University “will be determining the appropriate next steps and working with our community in the coming days,” said spokeswoman Stacie Burgess.
Universities have designated residence halls for students who show symptoms or test positive for the novel coronavirus while on campus, but their reopening plans did not include separate guidance for students traveling from states where the virus is raging. National trends — an emerging epicenter for the virus in South Florida and an outburst of new cases in Mississippi — have demonstrated the need to require students moving from certain areas to isolate themselves from the rest of the community, the D.C. Office of Planning said in a letter to university leaders.
The city’s planning office is requiring schools to explain how they will help students from the designated states to self-quarantine during their first two weeks on campus, and the city’s health department can inspect the colleges’ lists of quarantining students for compliance.
Alex Drakeford, an 18-year-old incoming American University freshman, is from a state on Bowser’s high-risk list: North Carolina. She is scheduled to move into her on-campus dorm Aug. 20, and she worries about what will happen if her state remains a hotspot.
“I was already nervous about the social aspect of college to begin with. So having a potential two-week quarantine doesn’t make it any better,” Drakeford said.
The first several days on campus, usually reserved for social mixers and student orientations, allow newcomers to get to know each other. Students required to quarantine would miss out on any events held in-person.
“It wouldn’t be fair to the kids that have to quarantine,” Drakeford said, but added that she’s willing to isolate herself if it means keeping the rest of the community safe. “I just want to meet people safely, but obviously some kids have to quarantine and some don’t.”
The fluid nature of the pandemic means campuses must be nimble. When Howard University shared its reopening plan, officials warned the guidance could change at any time. George Washington University on Monday scrapped its plans for a hybrid semester and announced most courses will be conducted online for the fall term.
Now, the city is advising campuses to consider new protocols, including asking students to sign a behavioral pledge, vowing to wear masks and limit social gatherings on and off campus. The District’s planning office is encouraging schools to work together as they consider the possibility of routine testing for students, faculty and staff.
This story has been updated to reflect that Catholic University’s spokeswoman is Karna Lozoya.