Safe Return to Campus Plan is Initiated at Mason

President Gregory Washington initiates the Safe Return to Campus plan for all residential students and faculty on campus


Laura Scudder/Fourth Estate

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases in Fairfax County, President Gregory Washington has taken several initiatives to ensure that the safety and health of students on campus are not compromised. One of these initiatives includes the Safe Return to Campus plan, which was established by Washington and is currently being monitored by Student Health Services. 

“George Mason’s Safe Return to Campus plan is comprehensive and flexible, with multiple layers of precautionary protocols built-in,” Washington stated in an email to students on Aug. 22. “We meet the standards recommended by federal and state public health officials, and in some instances, go beyond their recommendations.”

The first major component of the plan addresses limits to social gatherings on campus. Students are not permitted to engage in groups of more than 10 people at a time and are expected to follow the social distancing procedures put in place by the state. Furthermore, students who violate these restrictions will be required to stay off-campus for 14 days and are subject to student disciplinary actions.

“We hope to keep the positivity rate low and stable and our disease prevalence below the prevailing rate in Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William counties,” Washington wrote.

The second major component of the plan addresses COVID-19 testing on campus. The Ángel Cabrera Global Center has been designated as the on-site testing location where residential students are expected to get tested. If a student tests positive, he or she is required to quarantine in a single dorm at the Cabrera Center itself or remain alone in their dorm room for 14 days until medical professionals clear them out.

“We will start with 320 students or 10 percent of the residential population,” Washington wrote in an email sent to students on Aug. 24.

Mason will also be conducting surveillance testing among students, faculty and staff. Testing will be done randomly to ensure that members of the Mason campus are not asymptomatic carriers. Abigail Pearl, a junior majoring in Communication, was one of the residential students chosen to do the test.

“The test was swift, well-organized and a simple procedure,” Pearl said. “Two stations were set up at the Cabrera Global Center. At the first station, a nurse wanted to confirm that I was the appropriate student they were testing and at the second station, two doctors were present to conduct the test on me.”

The last major component of the plan includes a Mason COVID-19 health check that should be taken by all students visiting or living on campus. This health check is an online screening tool that must be completed daily and the goal is to detect early signs of an outbreak to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Washington hopes that with this approach, Mason will have fewer outbreaks on campus.

“While we find ourselves with no perfect solution to this pandemic, I am heartened by the serious-minded faculty who are offering so much critical guidance, to us and to the nation, as well as a community of faculty, staff and students who are determined to do what it takes to keep the virus at bay,” Washington said.