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One of four COVID-19 testing PODs sits on campus near the Nicholson Gateway, Friday, August 21, 2020, on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La. The testing centers will allow for a rapid testing for students, faculty and staff exclusively.

LSU is on the road to a return to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic — but that destination is still a long way off.

The university is surveying its students and faculty to gauge their interest in receiving the vaccine for COVID-19 and adding their names to a queue to schedule an appointment once it's available at LSU.

With roughly half of all classes at the university still online-only, the university said vaccinating its students and staff offers the quickest path to a return to normal instruction — although vaccinations may not begin until the late spring or early summer.

“We've learned a lot with online on how to deliver it and make it work in this environment, but there is something more to in-person learning and what it provides to the college experience,” LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said. “We want to have that college experience back to normal or as close to normal as soon as we can.”

In the first 24 hours after the survey went up Monday, 7,000 people responded, including 4,500 students, Ballard said.

To reduce difficulties with online learning while still keeping the virus at bay on its campus, LSU increased the number of online classes that are taught in real time, rather than a recorded lecture, to 71% in the spring semester, Ballard said. Many of the in-person classes are taught in a hybrid format with some online instruction, Ballard added.

“We wanted to have that synchronous for classes online so it's like you’re in a lecture,” Ballard said.

LSU is already vaccinating on-campus health care providers and students in its Allied Health program who interact with patients, as well as public safety officers working on campus. The university received 190 doses last week earmarked for these groups, Ballard said.

Higher education personnel are in the next group eligible for the vaccine under the Louisiana Department of Health’s vaccine rollout plan. But there is no word yet on when the state will move to that group, labeled “Phase 1B, Tier 2.”

The university is working with the Department of Health to procure doses of the vaccine once they are available, Ballard said.

The survey will also be used to ensure LSU requests the correct number of doses for its population interested in receiving a vaccine, and those who request it will be notified to make an appointment once the doses are available, according to a letter accompanying the survey from LSU Interim President Tom Galligan.

The survey also allows the university to track how many of its students and staff may have already received the vaccine through health care providers independent of LSU, Ballard said.