The spring semester will begin as planned with no changes to move-in dates or the start of in-person instruction, per an email sent Friday by University President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and K. Craig Kent, executive vice president for health affairs. However, all students and academic division faculty and staff must now upload proof of a booster shot by Jan. 14 — a change from the original Feb. 1 deadline.
The decision comes amid a large national and local spike in COVID-19 cases and concern due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. As of Thursday, there are 460 active cases of COVID-19 in the University community, with a seven-day average positivity rate of 24 percent. Fifty-one new student cases were recorded Wednesday, the highest number of student cases since the spike in cases in February 2021, while Dec. 27 saw 54 faculty and staff cases — the highest number of daily faculty and staff cases since the University’s COVID-19 tracker began recording cases in August 2020.
Many peer institutions — including Duke University, Stanford University, Columbia University and others — delayed the start of in-person classes as a result of recent spikes in cases.
“We have changed the booster deadline because our public health experts are concerned that a spike in serious COVID-19 cases at the start of the semester could strain health care resources and University isolation and quarantine space,” the email reads.
School of Medicine and School of Nursing faculty and staff will continue to abide by the Feb. 1 deadline. Those who are not yet eligible for a booster shot by their respective deadline must submit proof of their booster within 30 days upon becoming eligible. Individuals who previously received an exemption for the vaccine do not need to take further action — a recent case of COVID-19 does not qualify as an exemption, however.
The majority of classes will start in person, though faculty and staff with extenuating circumstances may apply for a temporary exemption to teach virtually.
University leaders are also evaluating policies on teleworking, events and gatherings, and will share an update by the end of next week.
“We are eager to see all of you soon as we kick off another semester together on Grounds,” the email reads.
University leaders will provide additional information to the community regarding quarantine and isolation procedures — as well as capacity limits — as the semester draws closer, according to University Spokesperson Brian Coy. As of now, Coy says public health experts are monitoring COVID-19 conditions closely and will make necessary changes to public health measures based on “multiple key indicators including case counts, hospitalization rates, quarantine and isolation capacity.”
This story has been updated to include Coy’s comment regarding developing protocols for quarantine, isolation and other public health guidelines.