Higher education institutions nationwide are adopting various plans to try and keep their communities safe. Some have extended winter break, while others have opted to go completely virtual for the start of the semester.
These decisions came after the omicron COVID-19 variant surged through the United States and broke records for reported cases.
The University of Maryland also saw a record number of cases, reporting 135 cases in a single day toward the end of last semester. In response, the university required booster shots to return to the campus and shifted winter classes to a virtual environment.
The university chose to continue the spring semester in person as planned on Monday, Jan. 24. The university said it will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and adjust its plans accordingly.
In addition, the university said it has put extra measures in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. With just a day until the start of the spring semester, here’s a guide on what you should expect.
Dining halls will continue to provide Anytime Dining dine-in services. For the first two weeks of the semester, there will be a carry-out option as well, according to an email from Dining Services spokesperson Bart Hipple.
Stamp Student Union will include a dedensified dining area, with dine-in and carry-out options, according to an email from university spokesperson Natifia Mullings. The university encourages students to “maintain safe physical distance,” and students must wear a mask unless eating or drinking, Mullings wrote.
Cafes will be open with a grab-and-go option this semester, and seating areas will be open, according to Mullings.
Vaccines and boosters
Every member of the campus community is required to upload proof of their Pfizer or Moderna booster vaccine by Jan. 24, according to an email from University Health Center Director Spyridon Marinopoulos.
Those with previous medical or religious exemptions do not have to fulfill this requirement. However, they will be required to test twice weekly and sign a risk memorandum until they become up-to-date with their vaccine, according to the email.
Vaccine information must be uploaded on the University Health Center portal.
Community members are required to wear KN95 masks in all classroom settings.
In other indoor spaces on campus — such as residence halls, recreation facilities and dining halls — KN95 masks aren’t required, but masks must still be worn. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds KN95 masks to offer more protection than some other types of masks, and recommends wearing the most protective mask that fits and can be worn consistently.
Students can pick up KN95 masks at residence hall service desks or at the front desk in Stamp. At Stamp, students will initially receive one mask and can pick up additional masks as needed.
All faculty, staff and students are required to take a PCR or rapid antigen test no more than 48 hours before returning to campus for the start of the semester. At-home tests fulfill the testing requirement.
Community members are not required to upload proof of their test results anywhere, according to an email from Marinopoulos and Student Affairs Vice President Patty Perillo.
If you test positive while in College Park, you must report your results to the HEAL Line at 301-405-HEAL.
Anyone who tests positive must follow CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines, which include isolating for a minimum of five days, starting from the day after developing symptoms or testing positive. A negative rapid antigen test is required on the sixth day to return to campus.
Individuals who still test positive after five days should continue isolating, as should individuals who have not been fever-free without a fever reducing medication for 24 hours or are still severely ill.
Twice-weekly testing during the spring semester is required for anyone who is not fully vaccinated and those who have not received a booster dose. Mandatory testing for community members who are not fully vaccinated is available on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Stamp.
On-campus testing for those who have symptoms of COVID-19 is available at Stamp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. For those who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms, testing is available in Stamp on Mondays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Testing is also available off campus in Prince George’s County, with locations available on the county’s testing site locator.
Students living on campus may request quarantine or isolation housing if they cannot travel home without a train or a plane, so long as there is space available. Students who test positive, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should call the HEAL Line to learn about next steps.
Students who test positive may not isolate themselves in dorms, South Campus Commons, Courtyards or university owned sorority or fraternity houses, according to the University Health Center website. Instead, they should return to their permanent residence or request housing from the university through the HEAL Line.
The same CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines should be followed.
If allowed to leave isolation, students must continue to wear a mask in their home and in public and avoid dining with others, travel and being around people at high risk until the ten day mark since their positive test, the website says.
Students who have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case do not have to quarantine if they are up to date on their vaccines and do not have symptoms, the website says. However, students have to get tested five to seven days after exposure or if they develop symptoms.
If students have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and are advised to quarantine, they may do so in place if they live in South Campus Commons or Courtyards and all occupants are in agreement, according to the website. Requests to quarantine in place need to be placed through the HEAL Line.
Eppley and other recreational centers
Reservations will not be required for “informal recreation,” the university said. This includes using cardio equipment, weightlifting facilities and multipurpose rooms. Information about reservations for other activities such as group fitness classes, aquatics, intramural sports and court reservations is available at recwell.umd.edu.
Basketball will only be available in the Reckord Armory and Ritchie Coliseum this semester, the university said.