Vigilance in the Continuing Fight against COVID-19
January 7, 2022
Welcome back to campus after what I hope was a restful and happy winter break. As detailed in an email that we all received from Indiana University on Tuesday, the spring semester resumes in person on Monday, January 10.
Continue to look forward
As we look to the beginning of classes next week, it may feel to some like we are back where we started with regard to COVID-19. In fact, I have heard from a number of people suggesting that we return to the measures we took a year ago, with remote teaching, learning, and working.
Considering the very different circumstances we are facing compared to this time last year, however, it is important that we look forward rather than backward. Our campus community is highly vaccinated, around 90% for faculty and staff. Vaccines and boosters are available free to all faculty, staff and students. And we have a near-zero occurrence of transmission of disease in our academic and co-curricular settings.
In addition, we are increasing COVID testing in all areas, including on-campus symptomatic, voluntary, and regular COVID check testing. We are also adding drop-off testing, which will make the process more convenient and safer. As we have been throughout the pandemic, we are carefully following the latest CDC guidelines, including for quarantine and isolation.
Enhanced masking guidance
Along with vaccines and boosters, masks continue to be required on campus, including in classrooms, and we encourage everyone to wear the most effective mask possible. In addition, combining a surgical mask with a cloth mask will also provide enhanced protection.
One change as we start the spring semester is that masks need to be worn continually, including while teaching or presenting (regardless of where you are located in the room).
While some places such as Tower Dining and the food court in the Campus Center necessitate brief removal of masks, we strongly discourage hosting events such as receptions that include food and beverages. The more we remain masked, the safer we will be. You can stay up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 matters, including the mask mandate, by visiting IU’s COVID-19 FAQ.
Continuing communication on matters related to COVID-19 is vitally important. With this in mind, I will be hosting a town hall for IUPUI faculty and staff on Thursday, January 20, at 1:00 p.m. IU Chief Health Officer Dr. Aaron Carroll as well as other campus leaders will be joining me to discuss the latest COVID-19 policies and procedures and to answer your questions.
The need for flexibility, compassion, and understanding
Another important tool in our continuing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is flexibility, especially with the increasing need for students and others to isolate and quarantine. Given that absences are expected to be more frequent, if you are a faculty member and do not typically offer makeup options for tests or labs, please consider how best to incorporate those opportunities into instructional plans. Bringing such flexibility—along with compassion and understanding—will encourage students and colleagues to be tested, to report when they are sick, and to follow the protocols that will keep all of us safe. It will also encourage an honest and open environment in which we can identify hot spots and take appropriate action to protect our community.
Let's keep fighting together
In the interest of honesty and openness, I have to admit that with the highly infectious nature of omicron, we can’t promise a COVID-free semester, but we can work to minimize the spread. I also know that this is taking a toll on all of us. The way we live, work, learn, and go about nearly all of our daily activities has changed, and around every corner evidence of COVID-19 stares us in the face.
At the same time, I am deeply encouraged by and incredibly grateful for all that you have done to fight for the health and safety of yourselves as well as for those you love and care about. I care about this campus, and I will continue to fight for all of us. Let’s keep fighting together, and we can get through this difficult time.
Nasser H. Paydar