The Special President’s Briefing will take place Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 8:45 a.m. See live updates below. Refresh page for most recent update.
10:02: President Gash closes the briefing in prayer, and prays for wisdom, clarity, health and safety as the University moves forward.
9:20: The Q&A portion of the briefing begins.
- Q: Can we clarify what are the changes in masks? What are the different kinds of masks and are there changes about when you have to wear a mask indoors or outdoors?
- A: Masks will only be required indoors, not outdoors. The changes in the requirements of types of masks will be for employees. Employees must wear a surgical mask, a KN95 or a N95 mask.
- “We will strongly encourage students to be wearing the surgical or KN95 or N95 masks as well,” Gash said.
- Q: If employees are infected with Omicron, or are identified as close contacts, can they work from home?
- A: Yes, employees can work from home. If they need to take a sick day, they will be allowed to use sick time. Employees can receive up to 160 hours of sick time from the “major disaster donated sick pay.”
- Q: Where can community members get the booster shot on campus?
- A: There will be two booster clinics, offering both Pfizer and Moderna shots. They will be held Friday, Jan 7 and Thursday, Jan. 13 and will be held at Drescher.
- Q: Will the University continue to enforce masks?
- A: Yes, the University will continue to enforce masks, primarily through health ambassadors — a new role created fall 2021 semester for students who wanted to serve the community.
- “They were so earnest about the reason that they want to do this is because they want to be on ground and in community here,” Phillips said.
- Gash added that he knows masks are uncomfortable, but they are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
- “There actually is a reason for us to wear masks, that’s not just performative or cosmetic,” Gash said. “As Lee indicated, study after study after study has shown it [masks] actually helps prevent the spread of this virus.”
- Q: Just for clarification, there is no change about when you should wear a mask?
- A: Yes, correct.
- Q: How long should one wear either the KN95 or N95 or the surgical mask, and are they reusable?
- A: They’re disposable and they’re basically one use, Phillips said.
- “For right now, it’ll be one that use one mask a day, but that might be changing as we go forward,” Phillips said.
- Q: Can we clarify the testing requirements?
- Step one: An entry test. Community members need to provide an entry test, conducted on their own, to provide within 72 hours of arriving on campus.
- “Take a test before you come,” Gash said. “If you are positive, do not come.”
- Step two: A PCR test at a Pepperdine testing facility. Once students are on campus, they need to take a test at Pepperdine on Jan 8, 9 or 10. Students need to have a negative test results, from the PCR test administered at Pepperdine, before going to any in-person classes beginning Jan. 13.
- Step three: Continue with weekly testing. Community members will continue testing every week at Pepperdine — the same as fall 2021 semester.
- Q: Are in-person classes for sure starting on Jan. 13?
- A: Nothing is for sure, the University will be watching the science and will pivot if necessary.
- “The virus, right now, is dictating a whole lot more than we would like to and we will be evaluating on a daily and on an hourly basis where things are going to be and watching the data,” Gash said.
- Q: Is there any advice for parents who have young kids who cannot get vaccinated?
- A: Kats said that this was not in his area of expertise so would not be speaking to it.
- Q: Should students come to Pepperdine with a quarantine plan if they live off campus? If they live on-campus, what is the plan for quarantine?
- A: For off-campus students: It is important for students who live off campus to think this through.
- For on-campus students: The University will work with students if they need to isolate or quarantine and provide them with a place to do so.
- Q: If students got COVID-19 over break, how will the University handle that?
- A: If any community member tested positive over winter break, they need to upload their positive test to the Health Center portal. If a student tested positive over break, they will not need to do the entry test or the PCR test, due to the fact that they may test positive after they actually had the virus. It is important for students and community members to upload their positive results to the health center if they did catch COVID-19 over break.
- Q: How will faculty know if their students followed the testing requirements?
- A: If a student is in quarantine, their professors will be notified. If a student fails to test, the University will work with the student to make sure they have tested before they attend an in-person test.
- Q: How do new students know how to test on campus?
- A: Contact the COVID-19 Information line if students are unsure.
- Phone: (310) 506-8111
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Q: If there are changes to the current conditions, would we be continuing online for a longer period of time?
- A: The University will not start in-person earlier than Jan. 13. The University will monitor the situation and may extend online education if necessary. Gash said the University does not anticipate extending the online period, but will if they feel that is best for the community.
- Q: When can students move in?
- A: Students can move in Saturday, Jan. 8 or Sunday, Jan. 9, as long as they have their entry test completed.
- Q: Do employees have the same testing requirements?
- A: The entry test and the PCR test is only required for students. The University encourages all employees to participate in both.
- Q: Will testing become more frequent throughout the semester?
- A: The University will continue weekly testing and does not anticipate that increasing. The University will evaluate based on the statistics as the semester progresses.
- Q: Any updates on athletics or fine arts?
- A: “Our goal is to continue to allow those to go forward to the greatest extent possible, as allowed by regulations, and as is consistent with our desire to protect our community from serious illness,” Gash said.
9:18: Phillips said he was ending on a happy note, and announced that all International Programs will move forward this semester.
“Many of us have great friends who are departing for their overseas adventures with Seaver College International Programs, and they are moving forward as planned,” Phillips said.
9:16: Phillips provides a chart of the different types of masks that may be required in LA County. Phillips said the N95 mask on the far right is the most protective and Pepperdine has a stock of these masks and is working on a distribution of them to community members.
9:10: Phillips discusses a new health order for LA County. The county is expected to require weekly testing for all colleges and universities. Pepperdine has already been conducting weekly testing for all community members since the beginning of fall 2021, Phillips said.
Phillips said the other change that is expected is a change in quarantine and isolation requirements.
Phillips said that isolation is if a person tests positive for COVID-19, and quarantine is just if an individual is identified as a close contact.
9:04: Senior Vice President for Administration and Chief Operating Officer Phil Phillips provides a COVID-19 Community Update.
The University will require an entry test for all students returning to campus. Community members need to provide a negative test result within 72 hours of returning to campus, Phillips said. Students will provide their results on a Google Form that has been sent via email.
Additionally, the University will require all students to take a PCR test from a Pepperdine screening site. The test must be completed on Jan. 8, 9 or 10. Classes will be conducted online Jan. 10-12 and in-person classes are expected to begin Jan. 13 for all students who provide a negative PCR test result.
9:01: Kats shows a study by the CDC about how effective masks can be at minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
9:00: Vice Provost Lee Kats provides a science update on the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Kats provides a graph describing how Omicron spreads quicker (shown on left) than other variants, but does not spread to the lungs as much as the Delta variant did (shown on right).
“These two studies provide much of the information we’re reading about [how] Omicron spreads rapidly, because of how quickly it colonizes in the upper respiratory tract,” Kats said. “But [Omicron] may not cause a serious illness, because of its lack of activity in the lungs.”
8:55: Gash explains the principles the University uses when making decisions on how to proceed with COVID-19. The University’s main principle is protecting the community from serious illness, Gash said. Gash added that the University knows they are “best when we are together.” The University is also looking at the data and making evidence-based decisions, Gash said. Lastly, Gash said the University is making decisions to ensure that the overall educational experience that the University promises to its students is what the University delivers on.
8:53: Gash talks about how he is thankful for the Pepperdine community and explains that this briefing will be to communicate what the University has decided in regards to Omicron, and to answer community member’s questions.
“We are balancing and weighing the priorities and values of this institution and trying to ensure that we’re making the decisions that are in the best interest of our community,” Gash said.
8:47: Professor of Religion and Hispanic Studies Dan Rodriguez opens the briefing in prayer.
8:45: President Jim Gash welcomes Pepperdine students, faculty and staff to the briefing.
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