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WSU, USU establish plans to keep classrooms safe from COVID-19

LOGAN & OGDEN, Utah — Seating charts and contact tracing are among the tools being used as classes start up on Monday at Utah State and Weber State.

Both schools are approaching the situation by, ideally, keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases in each class.

They don’t have a mask mandate as a tool, but they do have vaccinations and case containment teams to help minimize the impact.

Whether it’s a Weber Welcome, or USU’s connections, both campuses had plenty of incoming freshmen on site Friday.

“It’s really exciting,” said Dr. Brad Mortensen, president at Weber State University. “We have students on campus. I’ve had students come up to me and tell me how excited they are to be able to be back and be in-person.”

The hope is to keep that type of in-person energy going as much as possible.

“I feel like they’ve got pretty safe measures in place, and the environment feels really prepared, and they’re taking precautions,” said WSU freshman Brooke Hansen.

Among those precautions are on-campus vaccine clinics that will continue as classes begin.

“Certainly, we’re using all the tools that we can find in the tool box,” said Dr. Frank Galey, executive vice president and provost at Utah State University. “We’re strongly encouraging students and faculty to wear masks, especially when they’re indoors.”

But as Galey explained, it’s what happens in the classroom that will also make a big difference.

Ideally, seating charts will be used to trace exposures and determine if classrooms remain in the green, orange — if they can trace who’s been exposed, or red.

“Red means there’s an untraceable case,” said Galey. “That class will go temporarily remote; go to Zoom for a couple of days.”

It’s a very similar system at Weber State, and really, each classroom is looked at on a case-by-case basis.

But USU and Weber State, along with the University of Utah, will add one more tool — a vaccine requirement.

“We’re definitely looking at possible timelines and how to implement it, but really, this is about keeping our campuses going through fall semester,” said Amanda De Riot with Utah State University.

USU’s vaccine will eventually go into full effect before the fall semester is over, but by Utah law, they will still allow exemptions for medical, religious or personal reasons.

KSL-TV also learned that Weber State will add a similar vaccine requirement, with details coming next week.

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