LSU expects to begin Phase 3 of its return to campus plan on June 29, university officials told employees in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Phase 3 boosts faculty and staff to 75% or less of personnel on campus, and includes limited reopenings of the UREC, Union, library and dining facilities. LSU began Phase 2 of its return-to-campus plan on June 8, increasing its personnel numbers to 50% on campus.
LSU interim President Tom Galligan said the university is anticipating Gov. John Bel Edwards to further ease his stay-at-home order restrictions on June 26. Louisiana is currently in Phase 2 of Edwards' order, which allows, in part, restaurants, malls, gyms and outdoor playgrounds to operate at 50% capacity.
Since the first coronavirus case in Louisiana was reported on March 9, the state has 48,634 total confirmed cases, 37,017 recoveries and 2,950 deaths. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana had 928 new reported cases on Wednesday — its second-highest total since May 21 (1,188).
LSU has required each phase to be completed for at least 14 days before moving on to the next step, and, so far, each step has fulfilled that requirement on schedule — a sign that the university is moving closer toward a full return to in-person instruction when the fall semester begins classes on Aug. 24.
Phase 3, Galligan said, is LSU "getting back to speed."
"It's us getting closer to being open for the fall," he said. "This is as close as we're going to get before we're back. But even when we're back, we'll be wearing facemasks in classrooms, in and out of residence halls, being physically distant where we can be."
The university's email on Phase 3, signed by Galligan, executive vice president and Provost Stacia Haynie and executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer Dan Layzell, said LSU's plan is "subject to change if the situation with COVID-19 changes."
"As many of you know," the email reads, "some states are currently experiencing an increase in cases of the virus, so we will continue to carefully monitor the situation and keep you apprised."
LSU's Phase 3 will allow in-person meetings for the first time since campus reopened after the initial spread of coronavirus, but virtual meetings will still be required for meetings that would exceed 50% of room capacity or where social distancing guidelines can't be followed.
There will be an expansion of faculty and staff, and LSU's department heads will be responsible for approving campus access requests. Buildings will be locked, and employees will either have to have key or card access or their department head will have to coordinate access with building administrators.
The UREC and Union, which have both been closed to the public, will open under limitations. The UREC will be open "on a limited basis," the plan said, and will follow social distancing and sanitation protocols. The Union and the campus bookstore will be open to the public and follow the same protocols.
The library, which in Phase 2 was open only for faculty and grad students to pick up and return materials, will open to faculty, staff and all students "in a restricted environment with limited hours."
Research labs and studios will also open under limitations. Studios will be limited to 50% capacity, and, along with research labs, will require high-touch surfaces to undergo regular disinfection. Large meetings "should" continue online, the plan said.
Dining, previously limited to curbside service, will open up to limited capacity with social distancing measures.
All on-campus camps remain cancelled through the summer, but campus events with fewer than 100 attendees "will be evaluated on a case by case basis."
Business-related international travel remains prohibited, and business-related domestic travel will be considered on a case by case basis.
Mail and package delivery will also return to normal operations for the first time.
LSU athletic programs returned to voluntary practice on June 8, and the NCAA approved a preseason model on Wednesday that allows LSU's football team to begin summer activities on July 13, add meetings and walk-throughs on July 24 and begin preseason practice on Aug. 7.
"We know that many of you are ready to get back to campus," LSU's email said, "and we appreciate that you have been patient as we return slowly through this phased approach."