After two-and-a-half semesters of mostly remote learning, Cal State Long Beach is preparing to welcome back students in person for 42% of its courses this fall.

New enrollment is expected to be roughly the same or above last year’s headcount, but final figures will not be known until later this fall, said CSULB spokesperson Jeff Cook in an email. A year ago during the fall semester, 10,001 new undergraduate students were admitted after applying to the university, one of the most popular in the 23-campus CSU system.

While all CSU campuses are requiring proof of vaccination to be on campus, according to a mandate issued July 27, decisions regarding specific dates have been left up to individual campuses.

Initially, CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro intended to wait to require proof of immunization until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to anyone existing vaccine (vaccines currently carry emergency authorization for use), but plans changed amid a surge of coronavirus cases across California.

For CSULB, on July 27, it was initially announced in an email from President Jane Close Conoley that proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or an approved medical or religious exemption) would be required by Sept. 30 in order to access campus, but “ideally” before the start of fall classes on Monday, Aug. 23.

“We are in constant contact with the Long Beach and Los Angeles County public health departments and will continue to monitor the evolution of the pandemic and will adjust our campus practices as appropriate,” Conoley’s email said.

CSULB was originally one of the dozen or so Cal State campuses that had a substantial gap between the start of the fall semester and when students must be fully vaccinated, according to CalMatters.

However, on Aug. 10, another email was sent to students stating that vaccination certification was now required by Aug. 23, although disciplinary action would not be taken until after Sept. 30.

“CSUs serve such a large population of students, just to even bring a part of that population back on campus, we have to keep everyone safe, or one case can lead to a huge outbreak,” said Hannah Peedikayil, a third-year CSULB student and commissioner for Wellness Affairs on ASI’s (CSULB’s student government) cabinet.

For Peedikayil, requiring vaccinations was the only “reasonable approach” for the school to take, although she wished there was more transparency from CSULB in their decision-making process.

Peedikayil, who is vaccinated, is enrolled in one on-campus course this semester, and while she is excited to return to campus, she acknowledged the risk that exists as cases have risen in the area, and as many students may be seeking exemptions.

“I think that the school is doing what they can, and of course there’s a risk, especially with the (delta) variant going around. We don’t totally know if an outbreak won’t happen on campus. But classes are in person, and at this point, I still have to take those classes, so I guess I feel as best I can in this kind of situation,” she said.

While CSULB did not directly confirm the reasoning behind the change in requested vaccination dates, Long Beach and Los Angeles County have both seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases as of late, mostly among unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people.

Over the past month, Long Beach has seen a 100% increase in average daily cases. The case rate as of Friday was 36.4 per 100,000 residents, up from 8.5 per 100,000 on July 15, prompting Long Beach to reinstate mask requirements while indoors and for large events.

Since the pandemic began, CSULB has confirmed 59 COVID-19 cases among students who had been on-campus within 30 days prior to testing positive and 128 cases of faculty and staff. As of Aug. 16, the active on-campus cases for students and faculty/staff are 1 each.

As of Aug. 19, approximately 24,000 students have completed the vaccination certification form so far, according to Cook. Some students may be waiting to receive their second vaccination shot before completing the form, he said, and CSULB will continue outreach to students who have not yet submitted it by the required date.

A total of 38,674 graduate and undergraduate students attended CSULB in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Regarding CSULB’s vaccination policies, Peedikayil has noticed a considerable amount of backlash from students, particularly on the ASI’s social media, and she anticipates getting “some voices raised” from students after she assumes her Cabinet position at the start of the semester.

Aaron Martinez carries a box upstairs as he moves into his college dorm at Cal State Long Beach in Long Beach Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. Aaron will be moving in with one of his triplet brothers and the other brother will be attending UC Irvine. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

In the meantime, CSULB has attempted to incentivize vaccinations, by offering “Beach Bucks” to a select number of students who upload their vaccination certification on time, or who received their first shot at Student Health Services on specific days.

For those students who do not upload immunization certification by Aug. 23 (including those with approved medical or religious exemptions), they will need to participate in a weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing program. If those students fail to upload their weekly test results, disciplinary actions will be taken, including a referral to the dean of students and a hold will be placed on their records. Staff who fail to report their weekly test result will instead be referred to human resources, and faculty will be referred to faculty affairs.

An academic hold will also be placed on students’ records for not completing the vaccine certification form by Sept. 30, according to an email sent to students from Beth Lesen, vice president of student affairs.

Students who will only be in online courses this semester will not need to provide proof of vaccination.

Other precautions will be taken by the university: masks will be required indoors for everyone regardless of vaccination status, and all students, faculty and staff must complete a pre-arrival health questionnaire prior to coming to campus each day.

Student athletes will also be required to test weekly, and students can utilize one of three on-campus testing sites.

Effective Aug. 23, the following on-campus testing locations are available:

  • Between noon and 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays outside the University Bookstore. No appointment needed, walk-ins only.
  • From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Chartroom. Appointments are recommended but walk-ins are welcome.
  • Students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 may be tested at Student Health Services.
Triplet brothers Ethan, left, Marc, center and Aaron Martinez, right, help each other move into their college dorms at Cal State Long Beach in Long Beach Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. Ethen will be attending UC Irvine as the other two brothers will be attending Cal State Long Beach. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Student housing plans to be at least at 90% capacity, which is approximately 2,875 students, and will only be provided to students who provided proof of receiving at least one shot of the vaccine by June 15. This follows a year in which the residential population was “quite low,” said Cook.

Rooms will be occupied as they were designed, in doubles, triples, suites, etc. according to the CSULB website, and campus dining will resume regular service with preparation to go to take-out only if health guidelines change. Enhanced cleaning measures will be taken, and space will be provided in the event that quarantining is needed.

Additionally, masks will be required in all common areas, and guests are currently prohibited from residence halls.

All student services such as the library and Student Recreation and Wellness Center will be open to students, and some events will be held as consistent with public-health guidance, according to Cook.

Peedikayil also works as a program assistant for Beach Pride Events and said that some events will be in-person, with a virtual component still available.

“I know a lot of students that have not gotten to set foot on campus, they have never been to in-person events, and I think it’ll be fun and nice to finally have that kind of community and engage with students directly,” said Peedikayil.

As of now, CSULB plans for spring to see 100% of post-pandemic in-person courses resumed on campus.