Deep Dive in Five with Catherine Voss Plaxton
As Associate Vice President of Health, Wellness and Student Services, Catherine Voss Plaxton and her team at San José State University’s Student Wellness Center have worked tirelessly to keep the campus safe and healthy through the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health challenges. We are taking a Deep Dive in Five with Voss Plaxton to find out what will be new for the spring semester in terms of the health and wellness programs for our students, faculty and staff.
What is the status of the campus in relation to COVID-19 as students, faculty and staff return to campus for the spring semester?
Catherine Voss Plaxton (CVP): While COVID-19 remains a public health concern, SJSU has demonstrated over the past year with the return to in-person classes that we can manage the virus effectively with safety measures and individual responsibility. A big part of that success can be attributed to our high rate of full vaccination (including boosters), which currently sits at 94% of spring students (returning and new).
What changes in COVID-19 protocols can be expected as the new semester begins?
CVP: Beginning in fall 2022, SJSU developed a COVID-19 safety strategy that aligns with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Community Level for Santa Clara County. The county is currently at the “medium” level. This means the campus will strongly recommend masking in all indoor spaces and masks will be required in both the Student Health Center and the Spartan Food Pantry.
We have tried to make it easy for people on campus to track our current status with QR codes around campus linking to our Health Advisories page. We are also implementing changes in our testing requirements for unvaccinated students and staff. We will no longer require regular testing for those groups, regardless of the CDC Community level. As in the past, you’re encouraged to consider additional safety measures that might make sense for you given your individual health risks.
How does the Student Wellness Center plan to respond to the uptick in flu, respiratory illnesses and an increase in COVID-19 coming out of the holiday break?
CVP: Throughout the fall semester, the Student Wellness Center campaigned to promote and administer influenza and COVID-19 vaccination. The team has also broadly promoted the COVID-19 safety measures, such as masking and good personal hygiene, which also are effective for other forms of respiratory illnesses. We encourage campus members to regularly check their vaccine status for both viruses and aim to be fully current with their vaccines before returning to campus.
SB24 is a piece of legislation, with implementation effective January 1, 2023, which requires all CSU campuses to offer abortion medication to students through the Wellness Center. Is SJSU prepared to meet the requirements of this new law?
CVP: The Student Wellness Center is ready to provide care for students with a positive pregnancy test, including pregnancy options counseling, medication abortion, and referral for specialty care. Beginning January 3, students who have received a positive pregnancy test at the Student Wellness Center will be provided pregnancy options counseling and, if requested, medication abortion from trusted SJSU healthcare providers.
What should students understand about the requirements outlined in SB24 in terms of services, cost and impact on any other student health services?
CVP: Students will set an examination appointment with the Student Wellness Center. If the student receives a positive pregnancy test during the exam, they will be provided pregnancy options counseling and, if requested and feasible, medication abortion or referral to specialty care. Medication abortion is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for termination of pregnancies within the first 10 weeks of gestation.
Pregnancy examination has been and will remain free for students in the Student Wellness Center. The cost of prescriptions, including medication abortion, are at the student’s expense. The cost of the prescription for medication abortion will be approximately $50.
Medication abortion prescriptions can be filled at the Student Wellness Center or a preferred pharmacy. Finally, the student will be provided follow up-care.