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Stanford moves up COVID-19 testing requirement for faculty, encourages mask-wearing indoors

University does not increase restrictions for students, even as case counts rise

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Stanford will require non-vaccinated faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars to meet a weekly testing requirement a month earlier than the University had originally planned, according to an email from associate vice provost for environmental health and safety Russell Furr.

The University now also “strongly recommends” wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, strengthening previous recent guidance in which the University stated that they only “recommend” that fully-vaccinated community members wear face coverings, especially when experiencing cold symptoms. No mask-wearing requirements have changed for students, despite rising case counts and “breakthrough” COVID-19 infections among fully-vaccinated individuals in recent weeks.

The announcement also comes on the heels of new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that recommends fully-vaccinated people wear face coverings in public indoor settings located in areas of “substantial or high transmission.”

Under the newly announced COVID-19 testing policy, unvaccinated faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars will need to adhere to weekly testing beginning on Aug. 9. The University initially planned for weekly testing for these populations to start on Sept. 9.

“This decision was based on a recommendation by the Stanford COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Policy Committee as we work to minimize spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” Furr’s email said of the change in testing rules for unvaccinated faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars. These individuals will also continue to be required to wear face coverings. 

The lack of new restrictions for undergraduate and graduate students reflects Stanford’s stated intent to move campus back to pre-pandemic conditions come fall quarter. During a Tuesday Campus Conversation, University provost Persis Drell said that Stanford remains committed to bringing all students back to campus for in-person instruction in the fall. 

But Drell and University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne left the door open for some changes to campus life. Asked if masks might again become required for those on campus, Drell said that “it is under active debate, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see changes in masking policy.”

Tessier-Lavigne echoed that the Stanford community is still not through the pandemic. “We need to remain vigilant,” he said.

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Sam Catania ’24 is the Chief Technology Officer at The Daily. He also is the producer of the weekly video roundup and formerly served as a news beat reporter covering COVID-19 on Stanford's campus and the assessment team leader of The Daily's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team. Sam is a Philadelphia native currently studying computer science and political science. You can follow him on Twitter @sbcatania. Contact him at scatania 'at' stanforddaily.com