New COVID-19 Protocols on PLNU campus 

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the reference to the Academic Accommodation Center, which is actually the Educational Access Center.

Point Loma Nazarene University is now following new guidelines regarding COVID-19 as of March 9, 2024. The school will continue to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most recent update will no longer require a five-day isolation period. 

Prior to this update, students at PLNU were required to self-isolate for five days after receiving either a positive test result or experiencing symptoms (whichever came first). Absences regarding COVID-19 were excused and accommodated by the Educational Access Center and professors. 

On March 11 an email was sent out by the university’s Wellness Center with information regarding the new update. The email referred to the CDC and California Department of Public Health for updates and guidance on the following: 

“Students who test positive for COVID will no longer be required to isolate themselves. They will be asked, as those who are ill with other respiratory illnesses are, to self-isolate, limiting time in public spaces and using a well-fitted mask when around others until they are fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms are improving without the use of medication.” 

The email also said there will no longer be any monitoring of when to return to class nor will there be excused absences. 

“Students will exercise their own best judgment about when to return based on the recommendations listed on this page,” said the Wellness Center in an email to PLNU students. 

Jen King, the executive director of the Wellness Center, said “It’s the same for flu, it’s the same for strep — which is bacterial — or if you just have a common cold or any other respiratory illness.”

King also said that people who have a fever should self-isolate and wear a mask in public. 

“That is what self-isolation is, it is just you being a good neighbor,” King said.  

For those at high risk due to immunodeficiency or other medical circumstances, the new guidelines may cause more concern. 

Second-year Christian Studies major Helen Blackstone-Gardner is an immunocompromised student at PLNU. Blackstone-Gardner has a condition called POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). 

“It is a form of dysautonomia which basically means my autonomic nervous system doesn’t function properly and your autonomic nervous system is what controls everything your body does involuntarily so heartbeat, breathing, muscle control, brain function and stuff like that,” Blackstone-Gardner said 

Blackstone-Gardner said POTS affects her ability to do things on campus: going to classes is a concern for her because she is at higher risk if she were to be exposed to illness, she uses a wheelchair and she lives in a single room that can accommodate her medical supplies. 

“It is hard because on the one hand, PLNU is following CDC guidelines which is amazing and that is good but it is also hard because to my understanding the majority of people are not immunocompromised,” Blackstone-Gardner said. “It is hard to fit both the majority and minority students on campus. At the same time, if they are going to be allowing students to go to class without testing, I feel like there should be some sort of accommodations for students who are immunocompromised to maybe Zoom into class or something like that because it is really dangerous. If I were to get COVID I would probably be bed-bound for two months.” 

King says it is now up to students to make decisions regarding their illness and their return to class. 

First-year elementary education student Caitlin Riley said “I do think it is very dangerous although we do have more resources to help prevent and treat COVID, we should treat it at baseline like the flu.” 

Riley added that COVID-19 is not like a common cold, it can cause severe damage to people. 

“If you have COVID, don’t treat it as nothing because there are people with higher risks,” Riley said. “Be considerate to others because you don’t know what other people are going through or how it could affect them.” 

PLNU is required to follow CDC guidelines, however, elementary, middle and high schools follow the California state guidelines which implemented the new COVID-19 protocols in January of this year. 

“They are a little bit ahead of us in dropping their 5-day isolation and so far so good. There have not been significant outbreaks so I think where we are at from an epidemiologic standpoint is that we have a higher level of herd immunity where we have a greater percentage of the population that has either already had COVID or has been immunized, so we have a nice layer of protection from community immunity,” said King. 

Blackstone-Gardner hopes to see adjustments in attendance policies and grace for one another. 

“We are on a Christian campus, we should be caring and compassionate toward one another,” Blackstone-Gardner said. “That is something I am passionate about, and I think a way we can do that is just being mindful of if we are feeling sick.”