Students are now allowed to have overnight guests in the dorm halls for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the university announced in a Jan. 27 email to the community.
During fall semester, students living in residence halls weren’t permitted to have overnight guests in the residence halls.
Other amendments to the guest policy include allowing students to have outside guests in the dorm halls, which was included in the guest policy during the fall semester, The Phoenix reported.
In order to have a Loyola student as a guest in a residence hall, the guest must show their Loyola Health App and COVID-19 booster status within the app must be confirmed, according to the email from Residence Life. Non-Loyola guests must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and all guests are required to wear a mask in common spaces within the buildings they are visiting.
This update loosens guest policy restrictions put in place during online classes the first two weeks of spring semester due to the rise of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
“When the university made the decision to have classes be remote for two weeks, and with the rising positivity rate (at the time), it seemed prudent to pull back and level set the residence halls before we opened up visitation again,” said Deb Schmidt-Rogers, former director of Residence Life, in an email to The Phoenix.
Some students welcome the guest policy changes and said they look forward to a more “normal” campus experience.
“With the pandemic and everything it felt like we were being extremely restricted even when it was getting better. [With the new guest policy] it feels like it’s gone back to normalcy,” Pedro Castro, a first-year computer science major, said.
Other students, such as first-year film and digital media major Audrey Cunningham, have expressed concern about the update to the policy.
“I live in a tiny dorm room with my roommate and I don’t know how I would feel about her having an outside guest in,” she said. “I was kind of surprised with COVID that they made this change since it was made when we were still taking classes online.”
During the first two weeks of the spring semester, only Loyola guests were allowed in the residence halls, but no guests were allowed overnight. With the update to the policy, students can now have guests from Loyola and outside the university stay the night.
“Residence Life had always intended to begin the spring semester with unrestricted visitation. As cases of the Omicron variant rose, we reconsidered the timing, but it was always the intent,” Rogers said when asked about concerns of the spread of the omicron variant.
Schmidt-Rogers said the guest policies were loosened because Loyola’s COVID-19 positivity rate has declined significantly.
“The consistent feedback we heard from students during the fall was ‘change the guest policy’,” Schmid-Rogers said. “We are hopeful that students respond positively to the guest policy changes.”
Loyola’s COVID-19 testing dashboard shows that during the first week of spring semester, university testing showed there were 66 confirmed cases of COVID-19. During the first week of the fall semester, there were only 11 confirmed cases reported by Loyola testing.
From Jan. 18 to Feb. 6, Loyola testing reported 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
First-year Jackie Moghadam said she thought that previous restrictions prohibiting guests in residence halls didn’t significantly prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re all sharing the same space. We’re all in the same classes, we’re all breathing the same air so again, [the guest policy was] counterintuitive,” Moghadam, a psychology major, said.
Schmidt-Rogers said Loyola will continue to seek guidance about its COVID-19 policies from public health officials.