Category: General Messages

Federal Order Requires COVID-19 Vaccination for University Employees

University faculty, staff and student employees:

As many of you may know, President Joe Biden recently signed Executive Order 14042, which has been the focus of guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. This order and guidance from the federal government require all federal contractors and subcontractors to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, including those who work at a university with federal contracts.

As a federal contractor, The University of Alabama, like most higher education institutions, must comply with the Executive Order and accompanying guidance. Consequently, the University is required to ensure that all UA employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by December 8, 2021, unless they have an approved medical, disability, or religious exemption.

Because this vaccination requirement is mandated by the federal government, UA does not have flexibility in its application or enforcement. Failure to comply will place The University of Alabama in jeopardy of losing hundreds of millions of dollars that we receive through federal contracts and awards as well as thousands of jobs funded, in part, by those dollars.

We continue to closely examine and monitor these federal mandates. In the meantime, if you have not yet been vaccinated, you should begin the process promptly to ensure compliance by the December 8 deadline. The timeframes in which you should act vary, depending on the vaccine manufacturer:

  • Moderna: The first dose must be administered no later than six weeks in advance of December 8, which is October 27, and the second dose no later than November 24, which is two weeks before December 8.
  • Pfizer: The first dose must be administered no later than five weeks in advance of December 8, which is November 3, and the second dose by November 24.
  • Johnson & Johnson: The single required dose must be administered no later than November 24.

All three vaccine options are available at no cost through the University Medical Center, Student Health Center or a number of other medical facilities or pharmacies, but timelines for the two-dose vaccines are short, so schedule your appointment now. The University continues to believe that vaccination is the most effective way to combat COVID-19. More details and frequently asked questions about the vaccines are provided on the healthinfo.ua.edu/vaccine webpage or contact the HR Service Center at 205-348-7732 and hrsvctr@ua.edu

We will follow up soon with more detailed guidance, including information on uploading records and applying for medical, disability, or religious exemptions. We recognize that this is an important topic that will generate many strong feelings. Thank you for your consideration and patience as we finalize details and processes.

Indoor mask rule updated, extended through Oct. 1 in all non-residential buildings

Effective today, the UA campus requirement for face coverings while indoors has been updated and extended through Oct. 1. Face coverings are now required inside all non-residential campus buildings, including all classrooms and academic buildings, and on campus transportation. The rule applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

Limited exceptions include:

  • In office workspaces when distanced
  • When alone in offices and private workspaces
  • In residence hall rooms
  • In residential common areas when distanced
  • While actively eating or drinking (in dining venues – while seated at a table)
  • While actively exercising
  • When teaching, if distanced and behind plexiglass

College of Community Health Sciences Dean Dr. Ricky Friend emphasizes the effectiveness and importance of interventions like masks and vaccinations to maintain the momentum of the full in-person fall semester experience. UA COVID-19 positives continue to trend below similar timelines from last spring semester, and substantially below last fall, and this update will keep us headed in the right direction.

The campus Situational Response Team and UA System Health and Safety Task Force will continue monitoring the situation on campus and in the community, including guidance and data provided by medical professionals.

UA to Reinstate Indoor Mask Rule; Will Review and Monitor

The University of Alabama will require face coverings indoors on campus, where and when distancing is not possible, beginning Friday, Aug. 6. This requirement applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Given the increase in COVID cases and recent CDC guidance, UA is taking this step to further protect the Fall 2021 semester.

With this new requirement, masks must be worn:

  • In classrooms and classroom buildings, regardless of distancing
  • In personal meeting spaces, such as meetings with faculty and advisors
  • When gathering in common spaces, such as the Student Center
  • On campus transportation

Exceptions include:

  • Indoor areas when distanced
  • When alone in offices and private workspaces
  • In residence hall rooms
  • While eating or drinking
  • While exercising
  • Faculty teaching, if distanced and behind plexiglass

The indoor masking requirement is intended to be temporary and will be reviewed after the first two weeks of classes. Guidance and data are continually reviewed by medical professionals and administrators working with the campus Situational Response Team and the UA System Health and Safety Task Force.

Vaccinations are the key to a successful fall semester and the key to moving beyond these types of requirements,” stated Dr. Ricky Friend, Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences.  “Everyone is strongly encouraged to be vaccinated. Data continue to show the vaccines provide very strong protection against serious illness and hospitalization.”

Schedule your vaccination appointment today, or let us know if you’ve been vaccinated. Students who upload proof of vaccination will qualify for $20 Bama Cash.

“Our vaccine numbers among faculty and staff are strong – the percentage vaccinated more than doubles the statewide number. We are still learning about students who were vaccinated over the summer, and will be offering expanded opportunities for vaccination as classes approach. Again, vaccination is key,” Friend said.

Check the UA HealthInfo website for the latest information.

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