Stanford eases restrictions on outdoor gatherings amid declining cases

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Stanford will permit outdoor gatherings between eight students from up to three households if students reserve spaces in advance, according to a Monday email to students from Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Senior Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students Mona Hicks.

Groups of up to eight students from up to three separate households will be permitted to reserve a limited number of time slots for gatherings. Times can be reserved at various outdoor spaces, including Lower Meyer, Upper Meyer, White Plaza, Old Union Courtyard, The Arbor Tresidder Patio, the Lake Lagunita barbecue area and Roble Field. Groups can register for a maximum of two hours between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days per week. The email asked that groups only book one event per week, given that the University anticipates many potential requests.

The easing of restrictions on student gatherings comes as new COVID-19 cases among students remain at two for the second week in a row, the lowest positivity rate since the start of the quarter, but also amid multiple prohibited gatherings and COVID-19 safety rule-breaking. The University follows easing Santa Clara County restrictions and the termination of a stay-at-home order in January.

The ability for students to gather may be suspended if the pandemic “gets worse” or the county or state restricts gatherings, Brubaker-Cole and Hicks wrote.

Students must register at least three days before they intend to gather using Stanford’s online portal, where one student must serve as the “designated host” and list the other attendees. They are expected to have completed their daily health check, their two weekly COVID-19 tests and must remain in accordance with the Campus Compact during gatherings. Brubaker-Cole and Hicks wrote that students should also wear masks at all times during events — except when eating or drinking — and maintain social distance.

Only activities that are conducive to social distancing are permitted, according to the email. The University listed examples of permitted and prohibited activities as guidance, specifying that vaccinated students are still subject to the guidelines.

An email from Stanford administrators lists examples of prohibited and allowed activities. (Screenshot: SAM CATANIA / The Stanford Daily)

Brubaker-Cole and Hicks wrote that students may be approached by staff on campus if their gathering appears to not be following the guidelines and that Stanford may end any gatherings that break the rules.

The change in policy does not represent the first allowance of larger-scale socially distanced events — The Daily previously reported that students from Stanford’s School of Medicine followed administrative guidance to organize what they called a series of safe mentorship cocktail meetups.

Additionally, students living in Crothers are now allowed to reserve some indoor common areas for small gatherings, according to a Feb. 13 email obtained by The Daily. The email was originally sent by a Crothers Resident Fellow to residents.

A Feb. 13 email from a Resident Fellow to Crothers residents gave instructions on how to reserve common spaces for gatherings. Some information is redacted to protect a form from receiving spam responses. (Screenshot: SAM CATANIA / The Stanford Daily) 

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Sam Catania ’24 is a Staff Writer at The Daily. He is a Philadelphia native currently studying computer science and political science. Contact him at scatania 'at' stanforddaily.com