The College of Charleston is attempting to safeguard its student body and the city from a spike in COVID-19 rates as some schools around the nation, including the University of South Carolina, experience an increase in cases. 

The College is taking a broad range of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, President Andrew Hsu told the City Paper. Students who live on campus will be tested and are required to self-screen every morning through an app. At least 500 students will be tested at random every seven to 10 days, said Alicia Caudill, executive vice president of student affairs. 

The school’s Buist Rivers dorm, located in the middle of campus just south of Calhoun Street, has been turned into a quarantine area for students who have tested positive. Classrooms have been rearranged to allow for social distancing. Courses started online, and many classes will be a hybrid of online and in-person, Hsu said.

CofC, which attracts students from around the nation, has filled dorms with 2,175 students for the fall semester. The residence halls are designed to hold just over 3,000 students, said Ron Menchaca, the College’s executive director of communications. Most of the College’s more than 10,000 students live off campus.

Students are required to wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing on and off campus. In addition, all students are required to sign the Cougar Pledge, which encourages them to wear a face mask, practice social distancing, not attend gatherings of 10 or more and to monitor their own health.

“We are working on a code of conduct addendum and we’re going to put some very strict policies in place,” Hsu said. “Any violation of policies and guidelines may result in disciplinary actions all the way from warning to suspension of classes. We also have a violation reporting form developed. We already have a lot of students with peer reports.”

Media reports and recent police reports involving large house parties downtown seem to suggest some students are flaunting the Cougar Pledge. Two College sororities have already been suspended for violating the rules about face coverings and social distancing. 

Plans are in place, but a spike in COVID-19 cases could still occur. Hsu said that while there isn’t a “magic number” to judge an outbreak by, CofC will go back to online-only classes if necessary.

The College has been coordinating students’ returns with the Medical University of South Carolina, the city of Charleston and the Citadel, said Chief of Staff Paul Patrick. CofC officials are also aware that students have a significant economic impact on local businesses, even if that could mean socializing in potentially dangerous crowds.

“We’re aware of King Street restaurants and bars,” Patrick said. “How do we work with them? We certainly don’t want to be in a situation in which we’re not allowing businesses to operate, but at the same time we have to make sure that everyone can do so in a safe and productive manner.”

“It certainly isn’t going to be a dull few weeks.” —Heath Ellison

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.