MemorandumSeptember 10, 2021
- AU & WCL Faculty
- Peter Starr, Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer
- Additional Health and Safety Information for Faculty
Dear Faculty Colleagues,
Now that the fall semester is in full swing, I am writing to update you on our health and safety measures and the responsibilities we all have to our community of care. With classes meeting and activities taking place across campus, many of you understandably have questions and concerns about the risk of COVID-19.
I hope you saw President Burwell’s message on Tuesday and our updated COVID dashboard, which provide up-to-date information about the health and safety conditions on campus. We do expect, and are prepared for, an increase in COVID-19 cases across the university in the coming weeks. In and of itself, the existence of such cases is not cause for heightened concern. In a highly vaccinated community like ours, the likelihood of severe illness and hospitalization is much diminished. Most breakthrough cases, which the vast majority of ours are likely to be, are not severe.
We have put into place many protocols to keep us all heathy and safe. While we all must take the appropriate precautions—with mask-wearing being the most important—I want to highlight a few key points to focus on as the semester progresses.
To support the learning environment, our current guidelines allow fully vaccinated faculty to remove their masks to teach, provided they can maintain a suitable distance from their students. Speaking from a lectern at the front of a lecture usually allows for such distance; sitting at a seminar table with students on either side typically does not. If students express concern about your not wearing a mask, please mask up going forward to support a welcoming learning environment. If you do choose to teach without a mask, we strongly encourage you to get tested for COVID-19 weekly, either at the university’s testing facilities or through your personal health care provider. Students should always wear masks in class, except for briefly removing them to drink.
As a reminder, please consult with your unit’s chair or associate dean before making any alterations in class modality. We want to ensure that we are treating students equitably in their access to different modalities, as well as manage the expectations of students and parents, most of whom strongly value in-person instruction. If you must move an in-person class meeting to an online format, please communicate as early as possible with your students.
Contact Tracing and Proximity Notifications
Students and other community members who test positive for COVID-19 will participate in a detailed contact tracing process. The recording of last week’s community webinar on this topic is a helpful resource. In addition to contact tracing, we have implemented proximity notifications. In these cases, individuals who do not necessarily meet the threshold of a close contact but are known to have shared a physical setting for a prolonged period with someone who has tested positive are notified and instructed to get tested. Several of our classes received proximity notifications this week. This added health measure helps to identify potential COVID-19 cases and allows all of us to manage our own health. Proximity notifications should not trigger changes to class modality. Students who receive these may continue to attend class as long as they are not experiencing symptoms. You do not need to discuss potential exposure with your students. Rather, please let the contact tracing and proximity notification processes do that work.
We can safely navigate the pandemic and ensure the well-being of all thanks to these comprehensive community efforts. I strongly encourage you to regularly review the health and safety information on the COVID-19 Resources webpage and the biweekly updates from President Burwell. We will continue to keep you informed as the semester progresses.
As always, thank you for your dedication to our students and to the broader AU community!