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The Challenge of Enforcing COVID-19 Policies Across Multiple Campuses and States

Developing effective COVID-19 guidelines and protocols for colleges and universities is challenging enough. For schools with campuses in different states, developing multiple effective sets of guidelines and protocols, each impacted by separate rules and regulations, is obviously even more difficult. 

While the CDC’s COVID recommendations are the same across the country, state and local governments also have their own policies in place, making it tricky for university systems with campuses in multiple geographic areas to establish and enforce universal guidelines.   

The CDC acknowledges on its website that their guidance “supplements and does not replace any federal, state, tribal, local, or territorial health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which Institutions of Higher Education must comply.” 

In other words, government input directed toward one campus could be radically different than government input directed toward another, even if they’re part of the same university system. 

No wonder schools initially struggled to implement cohesive vaccine policies. An NBC News analysis earlier this year of more than 800 colleges and universities requiring the COVID-19 vaccination revealed that “the vast majority have unclear directives, loopholes, or legal complications.” While that study took place during the spring, it’s unlikely that all the schools involved have completely rectified the issues. 

The Associated Press reported this November that there are now at least 1,100 colleges and universities requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccines, according to tracking by The Chronicle of Higher Education. But even among schools with vaccine requirements, policies can vary widely. 

Does the policy apply to students, faculty, or both? Are masks required? Can a negative COVID test be used in lieu of a vaccination? Are there exemptions offered? If so, on what grounds? 

Good luck finding consistency, even within the same university system. According to the AP report, the nine-campus University of Louisiana System told students they needed to be vaccinated or receive a medical, religious, or philosophical exemption before registering for classes next semester. At the University of New Orleans, only 6% of students applied for the exemption, compared to 33% at McNeese State University. Verifying all those exemptions presents another challenge altogether.

PubSEG’s team of experienced contact tracers can help schools navigate those rough waters. We’ve partnered with colleges, universities, and K-12 schools throughout the country and no two programs are exactly alike, so we understand the challenge of having to administer different policies.  

“From what I’ve experienced, it’s difficult for schools with campuses in multiple states to document a cohesive COVID-19 policy,” says Kerry Dougherty, PubSEG’s Head of Sales. “These schools need to create one set of protocols with several variations that allow compliance with state and local county health guidelines. So the schools have to work hard to ensure their policies are carefully worded and communicated.”

With tens of thousands of students and staff across multiple campuses, it’s often impossible for large university systems to present a consistent set of guidelines. PubSEG cuts through the clamor to ensure that the message schools need to get across to students and faculty is connecting. 

“Our dedicated teams of contact tracers are able to accommodate different policies in different states,” Ms. Dougherty says, “so the university can feel confident that its policies are being enforced efficiently and accurately.”     

Will there ever be universal COVID-19 guidelines in place for all schools? Of course not. But regardless of your COVID-19 policies, PubSEG can help you enforce them, even if they differ across multiple campuses. 

Whether it’s following up with positive cases, reaching out to close contacts, enforcing vaccine mandates, monitoring test results, processing exemptions, or all of the above, PubSEG can be your trusted partner in the fight to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Just give us a call. We’d love to learn how we can help.