Category: General Messages

COVID Delta Variant and Vaccinations

Dear members of our UA Community:

We are excited to welcome students back to campus in the coming weeks, while closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. The Delta variant is more infectious and is leading to increased hospitalizations and other negative outcomes – especially among those not vaccinated.

The best way to keep COVID-19 and variants like Delta from affecting your campus experience, and those of your fellow faculty, staff and students, is through widespread vaccination.

Consider these points:

  • The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and symptomatic disease.
  • While it’s still possible to contract COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated (especially with the Delta variant), the symptoms are milder, and hospitalization or death is rare.
  • Preliminary data from several states indicate 99.5% of US COVID-19 deaths were among the unvaccinated.
  • Reports suggest the Delta variant is causing hospitalizations among younger people, especially the unvaccinated.

I am grateful to the many of you who have already chosen to be vaccinated or plan to do so soon. Whether you received your vaccine on campus or from a community provider, you are helping us Protect Our Herd.

Students who report proof of their vaccination status will receive $20 Bama Cash as a thank you gift for doing their part. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, our University Medical Center and Student Health Center continue to offer vaccinations at no out-of-pocket cost.

Thanks for protecting our herd. Roll Tide!

Richard Friend, MD
Dean, College of Community Health Sciences
Associate Dean
University of Alabama School of Medicine
Tuscaloosa Campus

Fall 2021 Plans with Updated COVID-19 Guidelines Announced

The University of Alabama System released today its Fall 2021 Operations Plan. In accordance with the System plan, The University of Alabama updated its COVID-19 plan with guidelines for Fall 2021. Widespread utilization of the life-saving COVID vaccine has helped UA officials plan for our Fall semester experience. Every member of our campus community is strongly encouraged to be vaccinated to keep you and our campus safe and Protect Our Herd.

What’s Required

  • All faculty, staff and students must report COVID-positive test results to the UA COVID-19 Support Program, follow required instructions, and isolate in accordance with public health guidance.
  • Unvaccinated individuals who test positive or who have known exposure to COVID-19 must quarantine/isolate in their legal residence.
  • In the event of a suspected increase in exposure at a specific location or among an identified group, unvaccinated individuals in those locations/groups are required to take part in “for-cause” testing.
  • Masks are required in clinical settings.

What’s No Longer Required

  • Faculty teaching in-person classes are generally not required to offer online options for students.
  • Reentry or sentinel testing, COVID-19 training, physical distancing and masks (unless in a clinical setting) are not required.

Recommendations

  • Everyone on campus is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated to Protect Our Herd. UA will continue to offer the vaccines at no cost through the Student Health Center and University Medical Center.
  • Students, faculty and staff should report vaccines received off campus to help UA better plan for the semester. Participating students will receive a reward (details to come as they’re available). Any false reporting of vaccine status will be considered a code of conduct violation.
  • Unvaccinated individuals are expected to protect the campus community by continuing to wear masks indoors and practice physical distancing wherever possible.

Acknowledgments

  • All faculty, staff and students must comply with the health and safety guidelines. Failure to comply with guidelines may subject individuals to disciplinary actions.
  • There is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any place where people are present. Participation in on-campus activities, programs, work and events may expose individuals, especially those who are unvaccinated, to a risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • The UA System Health and Safety Task Force will remain active and continue to monitor data on campus and in the community. The health and safety guidelines are subject to change.

COVID Vaccine Distribution Update

The Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced today that COVID-19 vaccine access across the state will expand to include those ages 16 and above beginning Monday, April 5. The University of Alabama intends to offer vaccines to all students as supply becomes available. Please note UA currently has a very limited supply of vaccines.

UA students who work in clinical medical settings were among the first groups offered the vaccine through the University Medical Center. UMC has already begun inviting essential student workers with high levels of face-to-face interactions. UA looks forward to expanding access to more students once additional vaccine supply is made available to our campus. Students will receive an email notification once they become eligible to schedule an appointment through UA’s vaccination program.

Vaccines are also being administered by DCH (our local hospital)WalmartCVSCrimson Care and the County Health Department. Everyone is encouraged to be vaccinated and should register for the first available option.

Most vaccines, including those currently offered through UMC, require two doses provided between 21 and 28 days apart. Both doses should be provided by the same facility. Those who will not be in Tuscaloosa after April 30 should consider registering in their expected locale.

Updates to COVID Protocols

Now that all faculty and staff have been provided COVID-19 vaccine access, the University is taking additional steps toward normal operations.

COVID Health and Safety Guideline Updates

UA campus community members should continue to follow current health and safety guidelines when on campus. Summer term classes will continue in the previously scheduled instructional modes and feature current safety measures. The following updates are based on recommendations from the UA System Health and Safety Task Force and are consistent with revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considerations for operating schools during COVID-19:

Distancing: Effective May 10, physical distancing requirements will change from 6 feet to at least 3 feet, regardless of space/capacity, between individuals not from the same household.

Masks: After the statewide mask mandate is lifted and until further notice, UA’s campus mask requirement will continue indoors without changes, and outdoors only when physical distancing is not possible among individuals in groups.

The COVID-19 Support Program remains operational and available to answer questions. Vaccinations are continuing, and anyone notified as eligible is encouraged to be vaccinated as doses and timelines allow. While we are heartened and encouraged by these changes, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to remain vigilant.

Updates on UA Vaccines, Eligible Student Access

In accordance with the Alabama Department of Public Health’s 1b category for vaccine administration, all eligible UA faculty and staff, contract workers with direct student interactions, and other qualifying populations have been offered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through the University Medical Center.

As Phase 1b allows vaccines to be administered to higher education employees, the next vaccine invitations will be sent to essential student workers who have high levels of face-to-face interactions. These groups include graduate classroom teaching assistants, resident assistants, orientation and visit staff, among others.

The ADPH today announced the expansion into Phase 1c of vaccine eligibility, including those 16 and older with underlying, high risk medical conditions as defined by ADPHPhase 1c goes into effect March 22.

In conjunction with the UA System Health and Safety Task Force, we are reviewing the latest ADPH guidance and potential options to offer vaccinations to students who fall into phase 1c. Timing and vaccine availability will impact planning, especially as the end of semester nears.

We will consult with our medical teams and communicate any decisions as soon as additional information is available.

Sentinel Testing Continues in Spring 2021 with Improvements

To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19 sentinel testing of campus community members will continue in Spring 2021, with more frequent testing scheduled the first three weeks of the semester.

Participants will receive incentives like Starbucks or Bama Cash gift cards, or other items.

Beginning this semester, all sentinel testing will be managed through UA medical facilities, so registration is no longer required.

Sentinel testing captures a random sampling of students, faculty and staff to help monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 so UA can respond promptly to outbreaks or increases in infection rates.

Spring 2021 sentinel testing will include a sample of the UA population and is planned to be conducted weekly for three consecutive weeks beginning Jan. 19 and every other week thereafter.

Participation in sentinel testing is voluntary for most, but required for:

  • Students living on campus;
  • Students participating in clinical activities, who will have a presence on campus at any time during the semester; and
  • Other individuals participating in University-sponsored programs, at the discretion of UA.

Because sentinel testing is one of several important measures for preventing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping campus safe, voluntary participation is strongly encouraged.

If randomly selected, individuals will receive an email from the COVID-19 Support Program with instructions. Participants will choose a time and location to take the test conveniently, confidentially, and at no cost. A PCR test with a short nasal swab will be self-administered under observation, and results returned within 72 hours.

Additional Changes to Sentinel Testing for Spring 2021

  • Once an individual participates in sentinel testing, they will not be included in the selection pool again for 30 days.
  • All persons who are randomly selected and agree to participate will be tested regardless of previous COVID-19 test results.
  • Those who have isolated because of a positive test in the last 12 weeks will not be required to isolate again if the sentinel test is positive.

Sentinel testing is one of many measures, such as physical distancing and face coverings, that UA is taking to protect the campus community as outlined in its Spring 2021 Return Plan in accordance with The University of Alabama System’s COVID-19 updated guidelines.

More information on sentinel testing, return testing, for-cause testing and more can be found at the UA Healthinfo website or by contacting the COVID-19 Support Program.

Message from the President – Oct. 12

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students and Parents,

I am very encouraged by the trends regarding COVID-19 cases on our campus and I am optimistic about finishing the fall semester together and returning for the spring semester with increased in-person learning and community opportunities. I am extremely grateful for the enduring commitment demonstrated by our faculty, staff, students and their families during these challenging times. That commitment and resilience have allowed us to continue to be on our campus and now to look forward to an engaging spring semester.

Tomorrow we will deliver important campus updates via our virtual Fall Campus Assembly for faculty and staff. I look forward to sharing good news concerning our progress as a University while also highlighting the recent achievements and remarkable contributions of our campus community. We will recognize our outstanding faculty and staff, including naming recipients of some of our most prestigious awards.

Speaking of awards, the University Awards Committee is currently accepting applications for UA’s six Premier Awards, the highest honors given here at the Capstone. The awards are presented to remarkable students, faculty and staff who exemplify the highest standards of scholarship, service, leadership and character. The application/nomination deadline is Nov. 15, and recipients will be celebrated during the spring semester.

The 2020 Beat Auburn Beat Hunger Food Drive kicked off Oct. 1 and will run through Nov. 19. All food and monetary donations benefit the West Alabama Food Bank, which serves nine counties. Now more than ever, families need our support to provide nourishment for their loved ones. I encourage you to help us beat Auburn again this year in this friendly, worthwhile competition.

We will welcome the Georgia Bulldogs and College GameDay this weekend for a Top 5 gridiron showdown. The eyes of the nation will be on us once again as Coach Saban and our student-athletes represent the University with class and pride. I am very proud of how our students and fans have responded to the stadium guidelines established to ensure a safe game day experience.

In closing, with only 60 days until fall commencement, each of us has so much for which to be thankful. I appreciate your ongoing dedication and support as we finish the semester strong and Tide Together.

Stuart R. Bell
President

Message from the President – Oct. 1

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents,

I am greatly encouraged by the continued efforts and excellent progress of our campus community in staying safe and healthy. For the third successive week, positive COVID cases at the University have dropped dramatically. Last week we saw a 60 percent decrease in student positives and record lows in occupancy of our isolation/quarantine space. I encourage everyone to stay the course and remain vigilant by sharing health information through UA Healthcheck, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

Earlier this week, Vice President for Student Life Myron Pope shared positive newsabout new guidelines allowing additional student activities. Effective today, and with safety measures in place, UA student organizations can begin hosting non-social engagement events that support their mission. Our more than 600 student organizations offer opportunities for growth, connection and leadership development that are an integral part of the Alabama experience. These new guidelines will allow these organizations to engage our students as they have in past semesters.

Class schedules for spring will be published next week and we have recently announced a modified 2021 Spring Semester calendar. First and foremost, we will see greater in-class learning opportunities for students across the board and on-campus residence will continue as normal in the spring. Please note these calendar modifications:

  • Our student Winter break is extended by one week with classes beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13.
  • With travel concerns and the lengthened Winter break, we will not include a Spring break week.
  • The last day for students to add/drop classes without a “W” is Wednesday, Jan. 20.
  • Classes will not meet on Monday, March 15, but University offices will remain open.

This weekend our 2020 game day protocols will enable us to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all fans visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium. Whether enjoying a watch party from home or cheering from the stands, it will be an exciting afternoon of SEC football.

I am proud of your continued commitment to our mission and remain grateful for your support. Tide Together, we will persist and prevail.

Roll Tide!

Stuart R. Bell
President

Message from the President – Sept. 14

Dear students, faculty, staff and parents,

I want to thank each of you for your commitment, patience and resilience. Your actions are making a measureable and positive impact on our campus.

Last week provided strong and encouraging data affirming that we are on course and on mission.

  • The UA System dashboard update showed a 65% drop in COVID-positive cases on our campus week-over-week.
  • Our Division of Student Life outlined areas of relaxation to the in-person gatherings moratorium.
  • We announced fall enrollment of 37,842, reflecting the high value our students and parents see in an on-campus education here at the Capstone.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Response, visited Tuscaloosa Friday to meet with System and University leaders, including a number of our outstanding students. An esteemed physician and global health leader, Dr. Birx was highly complimentary of our comprehensive Health and Safety program and our campus initiatives.

I am very proud of the progress we have made, and we can’t stop now.

  • Wear your mask.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Avoid large gatherings.

This week we continue implementing our sentinel testing program. For students, faculty and staff: if you haven’t set up your account, please go to healthy.verily.com to participate in this important initiative. Those with questions are encouraged to utilize the newly enhanced COVID19 hotline at 205-348-2819.

The University of Alabama is known worldwide as the Capstone because we look after one another and set an example for those around us. Thank you for helping lead the way. Because of you, we are all Tide Together.

Stuart R. Bell
President

Message from the President – Sept. 9

Dear students, faculty, staff and parents,

Hoping your Labor Day weekend was safe and relaxing, I want to update you on three COVID-19 steps we have implemented effective today.

  • For our students who test positive and prepare to move to campus isolation space, staffing and medical resources have been enhanced to ensure prompt communication and expanded services.
  • The COVID19 hotline (205-348-2819) has been upgraded to speed the delivery of answers to your questions. The UA healthinfo website is another good resource.
  • A key component of our plan, sentinel testing for asymptomatic students, faculty and staff, began yesterday and will continue weekly. Participation is required for all students who live on campus and other select groups. Verily, the company that has worked with us on many aspects of our testing program, will notify you if you are selected for sentinel screening.

Other testing reminders:

  • Testing for students who are symptomatic or have been exposed is 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. each weekday at Coleman Coliseum.
  • Testing for employees who are symptomatic or have been exposed is 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. each weekday at University Medical Center.
  • For-cause testing in geographic areas or groups continues as determined by UA health officials.
  • The Student Health Center will remain open for any weekend testing needs.

As a reminder from the Division of Student Life, we are continuing the moratorium on student events through Sept. 13 as we meet with student leaders and health officials to determine the appropriate next steps.

The health and safety of our community is our top priority and we will use every resource available to assist with testing, education and enforcement. Thank you for your commitment, patience and resiliency in the face of these challenges as they are making a difference.

Tide Together,

Stuart R. Bell
President