The Repopulation of CSUEB Amidst Health Concerns


Ryan Jacobson, Unsplash

By Sean Serrano, CONTRIBUTOR
Cal State University East Bay usually welcomes over 12,000 students and 1,000 employees when school begins in mid-August. This year is not usual, and neither is the number of staff and faculty that returned to campus amidst a contagious pandemic and wildfires that have swept through the state.
East Bay repopulated the campus with more than 600 staff and faculty members in early June. Since their return, COVID-19 cases spiked in late June, and air quality worsened after the heatwave in mid-August.
Hayward campus has seen a few days of campus closures due to the air quality but the Cal State University Employee Union (CSUEU) has concerns about opening the campus at all. Alameda County Public Health Department has allowed distance learning for higher education effective September 2nd.
While the campus closed on August 19, 20, and 24 due to the air quality, it was not closed the entire week despite the unchanging quality.
“It was hard to sit in the office with an N-95 mask on for four hours,” one staff member said after spending a day on campus. “Those of us who experienced the fires from last year had the mask in our possession, but those were not provided.”
Another employee of East Bay briefly said being on campus with the smoke is an extra challenging situation this semester.
“We have masks for the pandemic, but they are not masks for the air quality,” he said in an interview. “I was highly affected by the air quality and had a sore throat and a headache.”
The CSUEU and other concerned associations delivered over 1,100 staff, faculty, and student signatures to President Morishita’s office to work remotely rather than reporting to campus on a regular basis prior to the beginning of this fall semester.
Lyanh Luu, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, said the decisions made were based on guidance received from the California Department of Health as well as the Public Health departments of Alameda and Contra Costa.
CSUEB has modified the campus to combat the spread of COVID. Classroom layouts were modified to accommodate social distancing requirements for the students that attend classes in-person, high traffic areas, and restrooms are disinfected at least twice daily.
East Bay Chapter President of CSUEU, Diego Campos, was still not pleased with how the University has handled the pandemic.
“We were promised plexiglass screens,” Campos explained. “But instead, we self screen our health, bring our own masks, and take an administrative leave when COVID-related symptoms occur rather than to telecommute.”
CSUEB has suspended most in-person classes for the fall semester with the exception of 120 labs, nursing, and music classes. No cases of COVID have been confirmed since the repopulation.