December 16, 2020
Dear Colleagues and Students,
First and foremost, I want to thank you for all you have done to keep yourselves and one another safe during this year of great challenges. Together, thanks to the diligence and dedication of our campus community, we have continued the vital work of education and research.
With the Food and Drug Administration granting emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and approval being considered for the Moderna vaccine this week, we can see a new day dawning, but loosening the grip of this virus will take time. Our students will be central to the process of vaccine administration. In fact, around 400 health professions students, including many in our School of Nursing, have already been trained to administer the vaccine.
Even with this good news, I want to encourage everyone to remain vigilant. Widespread immunity will not be immediate, and we will continue wearing masks, observing safe physical distancing, carrying out intense cleaning protocols, and conducting on-campus mitigation testing.
Our fall semester mitigation testing has yielded very encouraging results. With more than 24,000 tests conducted since August, we have seen a positivity rate much lower than the rest of the city of Indianapolis as a whole. I am proud of these results, and I know they speak to the hard work of those on campus whose responsibilities have shifted to managing the testing process.
As we look to the spring, we will continue this testing, beginning with regular weekly mitigation testing that will start January 4 and continue throughout the semester. Given the great work of our faculty and staff in transitioning two of our in-house labs to process these tests, we intend to increase significantly the number of mitigation testing we conduct in the spring. Similar to the fall, on-arrival COVID-19 tests will also be given to students living in congregate housing upon their return to campus, which begins for early arrivals on January 8 and for others living on campus on February 1.
None of this has been easy, and I join many others who look forward to the day that we return to something nearing normal. To that end, I am pleased that the University Faculty Council executive committee approved the 2021-2022 academic calendar, which includes a weeklong Thanksgiving break as well as the traditional week of spring break. As we approach the fall, we will be reviewing the public health situation carefully to ensure that we continue to promote the health and safety of our campus community.
I remain optimistic that once the vaccine reaches at least three quarters of the population and leads to the development of population immunity, we will once again see each other face-to-face on a daily basis as we return to an in-person fall semester. Guiding our decisions will be a revised version of the Restart Committee Recommendations to be released near the beginning of the spring semester.
Thank you again for all you are doing for our campus, and stay safe and well this holiday season.
Nasser H. Paydar