Dear AU Community,
Welcome to the first day of our spring semester. Today, I wanted to update you about our ongoing work for an effective online period through January 30 and our return to in-person classes and activities on January 31. As COVID-19 moves from a pandemic to a more endemic situation that will be with us for the long-term, we are taking the necessary steps to excel at our mission, support our students in their academic pursuits and our faculty and staff in their work, and implement additional measures that will help us live, work, and learn together as the virus continues to circulate and evolve.
The omicron variant continues to produce high caseloads (more than double the previous overall peak in January 2021 and a 53 percent increase in cases and 30 percent increase in hospitalizations in the last week in Washington, DC) and significant operational and workforce impacts in many sectors. Tens of thousands of flights were canceled over the past two weeks. Now, many K-12 schools in the DC region have large segments of their workforce in isolation, and Metrobus, which many students, faculty, and staff use for local transportation, has modified service due to COVID-related shortages.
These impacts and the related uncertainty are one of the primary reasons for the short-term shift to online classes. We are prioritizing predictability in the academic experience and availability of our core support functions amidst omicron-driven disruptions. Making short-term adjustments that address the immediate challenges is both more effective and better for our community than ongoing widespread upheavals to the student experience both in and out of the classroom. We know there will be challenges when we resume in-person classes on January 31. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will work together as a community to navigate them.
Information about campus services, operations, and student support—including dining, library hours, academic coaching, the Writing Center, the tutoring lab, and wellness services—can be found in our updated Student Guide. In addition, here is the latest information on COVID-19 testing availability and requirements:
- Testing Hours: The updated January testing schedule for main campus, WCL, and 4401 Connecticut is available on the website. Saturday hours have been added for the main campus testing site.
- Required PCR Test after Returning to Campus: Within 48 hours of your initial return to campus this month—whether students living in the residence halls; off-campus residents using campus facilities or services; or faculty and staff coming to campus for work—you must complete a PCR test. Pre-arrival testing is also strongly recommended as a safety precaution and does not need to be reported unless you test positive. If you previously tested positive within the last 90 days (either through on-campus testing or an off-campus positive result that was reported to the university via the AU Forward portal), you are exempt from this testing requirement.
- Reporting Off-Campus Positive Tests: A reminder that if you test positive using an off-campus test, whether PCR or antigen, you must report the result via the AU Forward portal.
- Isolation after a Positive Test: We are aware that the CDC guidance for isolation has changed to five days, but DC Health has not yet changed from the previous 10-day isolation period. There are ongoing discussions with DC Health and expected updates from CDC specific to higher education communities. Until the DC Health isolation guidelines for universities change, AU is not testing students out of isolation before 10 days conclude. As soon as additional information is available, we will update the community on revisions to our isolation protocols.
- Boosters: As a reminder, COVID-19 boosters are required by February 10. Students can upload their booster information on the student health portal, and faculty and staff can upload updated information on the AU Forward portal. If you are eligible and have not yet received your booster shot, please do so as soon as possible.
Thanks to lessons learned in the previous two years and the preparation and ongoing commitment of our faculty and staff, we are providing the same high-quality educational opportunities and student services in a virtual format this month and will resume in-person learning on January 31. Given that classes are proceeding on our original calendar, the campus is operating with services available, and the move to online operations is temporary, there is no tuition discount or prorated fees for housing or meal plans associated with this brief shift. Our residence halls are open, and on-campus residential students may return at a time of their choosing. Students will have their full bank of meal plan swipes and EagleBucks available throughout the spring semester.
We know this is a challenging situation, and we appreciate your patience. We will provide additional information on the January 31 return to in-person classes and operations. I look forward to seeing you on campus on January 31 if not before. Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to our AU community.
Be safe and be well.