Campus COVID-19 Update
August 17, 2021
I know we are all concerned about the current surge of COVID-19 cases and the Delta variant, especially as we approach the beginning of classes this week. Accordingly, I want to share two new operational developments that are consistent with updated University of Louisiana System Fall 2021 Guidelines.
- Faculty and staff who are not vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
- If needed, special vaccine leave will be available for obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine.
More details related to these provisions will be disseminated soon, including associated new University policies.
I fully recognize the challenges associated with current circumstances, and our leadership team will be closely monitoring the situation on campus as well as in our surrounding communities. Please be reminded of the following important considerations as we seek to safely launch the fall semester.
Vaccines – safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 remain widely available and free, including on campus. These vaccines have been proven to provide significant protection against COVID-19. While “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals occur, infection is less likely and severe illness or hospitalization is much less likely. It is clear from what we are seeing locally and nationally that almost all hospitalizations involving severe cases of COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated.
I strongly encourage all eligible faculty, staff, and students to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Anyone with lingering doubts or concerns about the vaccine should seek the advice of a trusted healthcare provider. More information about COVID-19 vaccine, including how to get vaccinated, is available on the Health Center's Vaccine page.
The FDA is expected to grant full approval for the first COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer) within the next few weeks. Once this occurs, the Louisiana Department of Health will add COVID-19 to the schedule of required immunizations for Southeastern and other Louisiana college students. This should further increase the rate of vaccination among our campus student population.
Testing – unlike earlier in the pandemic, testing for COVID-19 is readily available. Testing on campus is quick, easy, and free. Information about campus testing is available on the Health Center's website.
This fall semester, testing will be mandatory for various campus groups and individuals under certain circumstances. The appropriate administrative units will communicate the specific requirements to the relevant groups and individuals as necessary.
I also encourage everyone to get tested anytime circumstances warrant, including if you exhibit even mild symptoms, or if you know you will be around others and want to ensure their safety.
Ventilation – there is now strong evidence that the virus which causes COVID-19 spreads mainly through the air, either from respiratory droplets or aerosols. We began addressing ventilation issues in campus buildings early in the pandemic, and at present, all major campus facilities are equipped with systems designed to sanitize and/or filter the air, thus reducing spread of pathogens such as the viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19.
Masking – in accordance with the Governor’s orders, masks are required indoors for all campus facilities. We know from prior experience that masking can help reduce transmission of respiratory viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19. I encourage everyone to review the current campus Face Mask Policy and to comply with its provisions. Employees who fail to comply with campus policies may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Enforcement for students is handled through the Code of Student Conduct and the Office of Student Advocacy and Accountability.
Distancing – while current guidance does not include restrictions on building or room occupancy, distancing, whenever possible, is helpful in reducing transmission of the virus.
Case Management – infection identification through testing, in conjunction with contact tracing for those who might have been exposed, helps reduce the spread of the virus. Southeastern’s case management teams will remain actively engaged in contact tracing. Please cooperate with them if you are contacted about an infection or possible exposure. All employees and students are expected to comply with campus COVID-19 protocols.
These and other measures are intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting impact on the health and safety of our people and on campus instruction and operations. We fully realize that, despite our best efforts, outbreaks are possible and could require campus operations to pivot on short notice. We will carefully monitor cases and communicate with campus constituents as circumstances warrant.
John L. Crain