With COVID-19 remaining a huge concern as the fall semester approaches, the University of Southern Mississippi is pulling no punches to ensure everyone remains healthy and safe on campus. The official website launched a “Flight Path 2020” page on August 3, detailing the various precautions being taken to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
“Each individual’s role is important as we continue our journey ‘To The Top’,” Rodeny Bennett Ph.D said in a video address on August 3. “Each of us must take personal responsibility to do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19, just as we have banded together to overcome countless challenges in our past.”
Most of the “Flight Path” details specific social distancing guidelines the university will follow over the next few months. Masks will be mandatory throughout every campus building, including residence hall lobbies and dining areas. All students and faculty will have to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms daily, and will not be able to go on campus if they are symptomatic.
A lot of new tech will be available at Southern Miss to help keep others informed on possible COVID-19 cases. Temperature monitoring kiosks will be available throughout campus to check for fever. An optional Trailant course will be offered by Southern Miss to generally educate others on COVID-19, including prevention methods. Most significantly, all USM on-campus dining locations will transition to cashless payment methods to “reduce contact between employees and customers as much as possible”.
Classes will also change to better prepare for the fall semester. For the first three weeks of school, all classes will be online only. As of writing, Southern Miss still expects to hold face-to-face and hybrid classes following these three weeks, and have protocols in place to help protect students and faculty in classrooms.
“All of our classrooms are enrolled at about 25 percent capacity, and we will have assigned seating in those classrooms.”Amy Chasteen, Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, told WJTV-12. “It spreads students out that minimum of six feet apart, and we will block off chairs.”
Should someone believe they have COVID-19, the “Flight Path” also has procedures in place. Three different COVID-19 tests will be available to students at the Moffitt Health Clinic, including the CDC recommended PCR nasopharyngeal swab test. However, all tests will be conducted on an appointment only basis, with priority given to those showing symptoms.
“This helps us best utilize medical resources like testing supplies, test processing and medical staff needed to care for patients,” Kayla Johnson, the Health Educator and Promotions Coordinator at Moffitt, explained.
It is easy to become discouraged by rising COVID-19 numbers as the school year approaches. However, Johnson and Bennett also made sure to tell students not to lose hope and stay connected with others during these hectic times.
“The potential for personal, intellectual, spiritual and social growth is vast during these times,” Johnson said. “Don’t limit yourself based on the circumstances surrounding your current situation.”
“I think we’ve all been in a place of just feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances of the pandemic,” Bennett said, “and I think it’s time for us to sort of start smiling more[,] to be a little more upbeat and a little more encouraged about our future.”
To keep updated on all Southern Miss decisions regarding COVID-19, please visit the official website’s response page at https://www.usm.edu/covid-19. To view the full details of the “Flight Path”, please visit https://www.usm.edu/flightpath.