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Oxford College continuing COVID-19 safety protocols in new semester
Asking visitors to refrain from going to Newton County campus
Oxford student center
The student center at Oxford College of Emory University. - photo by File Photo

OXFORD, Ga. — Oxford College of Emory University began its spring semester this week with many of the same safety protocols it has operated under since August, including a no-visitor policy, that kept its COVID-19 rate "very low."

Oxford's administration is asking the public to refrain from coming to campus at this time, despite the college normally welcoming visitors to campus for photos, special events or to eat in the Dining Hall, a news release stated. 

Safety measures the college adopted during the fall semester kept COVID-19 cases very low, with fewer than 10 cases among faculty, staff, and students on the Oxford campus throughout the fall semester, the release stated.

Laura Gafnea, Oxford College director of Community Relations, said, “We are looking forward to the day when we can safely welcome the community back to campus to enjoy our beautiful facilities and outdoor spaces.

“But for now, we are asking for everyone’s cooperation with the no-visitor policy, which will help keep not only our students, but the larger community, safe,” Gafnea said.

As was the case for most colleges and universities across the country, the coronavirus pandemic forced Oxford College to adopt new plans and protocols to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as well as the larger Newton County community. 

Beginning in fall 2020, Emory’s first-year students on both the Atlanta and Oxford campuses were given the option to live on campus or learn from home, while most upper-class students continued to engage in remote learning. 

Limiting the number of students who could live in residence halls allowed all residence halls on both campuses to have single occupancy only. 

At Oxford College, nearly 400 students, or less than half of the typical student population, lived on campus. As students moved in last August, they participated in mandatory health screenings and COVID-19 tests before reporting to their residence halls. 

To reduce crowds, move-in activities that normally take place during a limited window were stretched over several days, and many traditional orientation activities transitioned online.

On-campus students were tested for COVID-19 every seven days and any positive cases were immediately isolated from the general student population. Any close contacts of students who tested positive quarantined in off-campus housing for the mandatory 14-day period. 

Students, faculty, and staff were also required to wear face coverings, observe physical distancing, and limit the size and scope of in-person group activities. 

Doug Hicks, dean of Oxford College, said, “A large portion of our focus prior to the start of fall semester 2020 was on bringing students safely to campus, meeting the needs of students who would not be on campus, and maximizing healthful standards for faculty, staff, and students. 

“As one of Emory University’s nine academic units, Oxford joins the rest of the university in having the expertise and guidance of world-class experts in medicine and public health to inform our plans,” Hicks said.

In addition to the campus safety protocols, a number of policies were adopted to keep the larger Newton County community safe. 

Most community-engaged learning classes and volunteer opportunities transitioned into virtual formats, and Emory University implemented a no-visitor policy for its campus spaces and facilities.

Gafnea said anyone needing more information can contact her at 770-784-8479 or