Dear Campus Community,
With the recent surge of delta variant COVID-19 infections in Arkansas, I know that many of you are wondering how this might affect our plans for this fall semester.
I have been meeting with the Cabinet on this subject and I want to take this opportunity to let you know where we are in our thinking. We have been monitoring developments closely and share the concern of many that the surge represents a health threat to all Arkansans, particularly to unvaccinated individuals. Given the public service nature of our institution, it is critical that we stay open for business and continue to serve our students to the highest standards possible. The question is how best to do that under current conditions.
We recognize that there will be vigorous disagreement on all sides. There are different opinions on the best course of action and we have considered and debated these within my leadership team. We also recognize that we are in a different place than we were last fall in that safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Many of you have chosen to become fully vaccinated.
We have heard from faculty and students that while many are successful in online courses, this modality doesn’t work for everyone. After fifteen months of learning primarily in a virtual environment, a significant cross-section of our students is eager to get back to in-person instruction for a more successful learning experience. It is also the case that for students who prefer online instruction, a majority of our classes and many of our major programs continue to have fully online options. Regardless of whether students take online or in-person classes, we believe that everyone benefits from a strong sense of campus community and that if we take reasonable precautions we can come back together this fall and reestablish a measured sense of normalcy.
Therefore, we will proceed with phase 4 of the campus plan with the following precautions and restrictions. We will continue to monitor conditions on campus and will be prepared to pivot back to a modified phase 3 if and when necessary. Thank you for your continued partnership in keeping our campus safe and mitigating the impacts of the pandemic at UA Little Rock.
The current surge of COVID infections has been referred to as the pandemic of the unvaccinated. While it is true that there are “break-through” infections of some vaccinated individuals, these represent a small percentage and symptoms tend to be mild. Unvaccinated individuals are much more likely to become infected and are much more likely to become seriously ill. Getting vaccinated remains your best option for protection against the virus. Therefore, I strongly recommend that unvaccinated individuals get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. You can receive a Johnson and Johnson vaccine at our campus Health Services facility or you may go to any number of local pharmacies and health centers to receive other brands of the COVID-19 vaccine. For more details, see section on Vaccination, Testing, and Contact Tracing below. For useful information about Covid vaccine facts and myths, visit the George Washington University Medical School site.
Recent state law (Act 1002 of 2021) mandates that face coverings may not be required as a condition for entry, education, or services in public institutions (except for health facilities); therefore, as of July 28, 2021, masks will not be required on campus. However, since masks are effective in preventing direct exposure to airborne virus particles, I strongly recommend that all individuals continue to wear a mask when in close proximity to othersuntil the current surge subsides. UA Little Rock will continue to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks, face shields, and sanitizer to students and employees.
Physical distancing requirements are lifted as of August 2, 2021; however, discretion is advised for large-scale indoor events until the current surge subsides. Event organizers may wish to implement a registration or sign-in process to better facilitate contact tracing should it become necessary. We will continue to monitor on-campus coronavirus status to determine if policy changes are required.
All employees are expected to report to their regular on-campus work location during working hours as of August 2, 2021. We will continue to monitor on-campus coronavirus status to determine if policy changes are required.
Although no COVID-19-related travel restrictions are in place at this time, other travel restrictions may apply. Approval at the vice chancellor level is required for university travel until further notice.
Vaccination, Testing, and Contact Tracing:
In addition to partnering with local pharmacies to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics, UA Little Rock started administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Health Services on July 20, 2021. We continue to recommend to the campus community a full dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Please view the recent announcement from Health Services for more information about the vaccination.
Health Services will conduct surveillance testing to assess coronavirus potential cases on campus as well as rapid testing for those who are symptomatic or have recently been exposed to the coronavirus. Employees and students may contact Health Services at (501) 916-3188 to schedule a testing appointment.
The Arkansas Department of Health, in partnership with Health Services, will continue to perform contract tracing for employees and students who become infected with COVID-19 or are considered a close contact for someone who has had COVID-19. All positive cases should be reported immediately to help limit the contagion on campus.