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SOU returns to in-person instruction

Churchill Hall at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.
Gary Halvorson
Oregon State Archive
Churchill Hall at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.

After a two-week remote start for fall quarter, and more than 18 months since the pandemic emptied out the Southern Oregon University campus, in-person learning begins again on Monday.

SOU’s October 11th in-person start falls four weeks after the COVID-19 Delta wave, that rocketed coronavirus infections in Southern Oregon to their highest levels during the pandemic.

While infections are still happening and area hospital ICUs are still treating high numbers of unvaccinated people with COVID, case counts in Jackson County are down from a weekly high of nearly 2,000 cases in late August to a little over 450 at the end of September.

For students and staff to return to campus they are required to submit a form attesting that they’ve been vaccinated or fill out an exemption and do weekly COVID testing.

According to campus officials, 94% of employees working on-site are currently vaccinated, as well as 92% of the students who responded. Administrators’ goal was a 90% campus-wide vaccination rate for in-person learning to resume.

"We wanted to make sure we had a safe environment for everybody. That was the reason for the two-week delay in in-person classes," says SOU Communications Director Joe Mosley.

Like the University of Oregon and Portland State University, SOU is requiring face coverings in indoor spaces on campus and in areas where people can’t be six feet apart.

Mosley says visiting campus vendors and patrons at arts and sports events will also have to show proof of vaccination or have a negative COVID test.

SOU started holding remote classes when the pandemic first arrived in the state in March, 2020.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.