Category: Student Messages

Omicron update and guidance from Dr. Friend

UA Community,

As our campus community comes together for the spring semester, I want to update you on what our campus medical professionals are observing with the omicron variant and share guidance for dealing with the virus’s ongoing impact.

We are seeing more positive tests in our clinics and anticipate that to continue in the coming days. Omicron is extraordinarily contagious, but cases are often mild and resolve quickly, especially among those vaccinated and boosted.

We continue to monitor local hospital capacity daily. Although numbers are increasing, ICU occupancy and patients who require oxygen are well below what we saw with previous surges. This is consistent with global data in countries that have already experienced an omicron spike.

Our doctors, nurses and medical professionals at both the University Medical Center and Student Health Center are ready to provide you with services and support.

Like last year, we should all prepare to adapt and adjust as students, faculty and staff may need to be out for a few days. Please be flexible and follow these guidelines:

  • Contact our CV19 COVID Support if you are sick with two or more COVID symptoms. Testing supplies are limited nationally, and asymptomatic testing is not recommended by the CDC.
  • Seek treatment if you are sick. Please be mindful of limited resources. Use common sense — if you normally have allergies this time of year, that may not require an emergency room or in-person doctor visit.
  • Those who test positive and can return home to recover should do so. While limited space is available on campus for those who can’t travel, the expectation will be to quarantine or isolate at home.
  • Faculty/instructors who need to temporarily switch to an online mode of instruction due to their need to quarantine or isolate should contact their department chair to seek approval from their dean and the provost.
  • Please be patient and understanding of others in our community. Both omicron and flu cases will be high during the coming weeks. Our staff at UMC and SHC have been heroes throughout the pandemic and will continue to meet the medical needs of our campus.

Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Wear a mask, and if you aren’t yet vaccinated and boosted, we strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.

The overall outlook for the spring semester is positive. Stay optimistic, be flexible and make wise decisions. Let’s all do our part to keep our community safe and preserve The University of Alabama experience. What this University is accomplishing — what you are doing — is too important to do otherwise.

Dr. Richard Friend
Dean
College of Community Health Sciences

Get Ready to Roll with the Tide

Dear Students,

We are all excited to cheer on the football team as they play in the National Championship (again!). Our student-athletes and coaches have shown that “Bama pluck and grit” as they have performed at a standard of excellence while maintaining a level of class we can all be proud of.

As our campus community unites to cheer on the Tide, please remember to do your part to keep yourself and our community safe. Whether you are attending the game in Indianapolis or watching from Tuscaloosa or somewhere else, here are ways you can best support the UA team:

  • Make wise decisions before, during and after the game. Masks are recommended around others and wherever it’s required.
  • Be a good teammate and competitor – respect the impact your actions may have on those around you.

We consider it a privilege to have so many successes to celebrate at the Capstone. Along with that privilege comes responsibility. Please enjoy the game and set an example of safety, passion and class.

For more information, visit healthinfo.ua.edu/championship.

Roll Tide,

Myron L. Pope
Vice President for Student Life

University Spring 2022 Operations

After a successful fall semester, The University of Alabama will resume operations on Jan. 4, with spring semester classes beginning Jan. 12. As national and local coronavirus transmission rates have increased, some updates to existing protocols are necessary and now in effect:

  1. The University Covid Support Program (CV19) remains open for consultation and guidance at 205-348-CV19.
  • Faculty, staff, and students must report positive tests to CV19 and follow instructions regarding testing, quarantine, and isolation.
  • Those who feel sick or symptomatic should call CV19 for guidance.
  1. Vaccinations and boosters remain strongly encouraged and are available at no cost at the University Medical Center (UMC) and Student Health Center (SHC).
  2. Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear a mask indoors and in outdoor crowds.
  1. Masks are required, regardless of vaccination status, in specified locations:
    • Academic buildings, including library and classroom buildings
    • Administrative and office buildings (except when distanced)
    • Health care facilities, including UMC and SHC
    • Campus transportation
    • Other areas as officially designated by the University

Testing for sick and symptomatic individuals is available at UMC and SHC, and CV19 continues to provide advice and referrals, including the latest CDC and Alabama Department of Public Health guidance regarding quarantine and isolation protocols. Limited dedicated space remains on campus for those not able to return home or quarantine/isolate in place.

College of Community Health Sciences Dean Dr. Ricky Friend continues to emphasize the effectiveness and importance of interventions like vaccinations, boosters, and wearing well-fitting masks in all public locations. The Situational Response Team will monitor conditions on campus and in the community and recommend any necessary changes.

Additional details, including information for those who are vulnerable or at risk, will be added to healthinfo.ua.edu and updated as conditions change.

STUDENT EMPLOYEES- UA employee vaccine requirement suspended

To comply with multiple federal mandates, UA implemented an employee COVID-19 vaccination requirement on Oct. 22. Specifically, President Biden’s Executive Order 14042 mandates that employees of federal contractors are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandated vaccination of employees of health care facilities.

Federal courts have now put the vaccine requirement on hold for further consideration. Today, a federal court issued a nationwide order to suspend the vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors. This follows a Nov. 30 federal court order to suspend the CMS vaccine mandate for health care workers.

As a result, UA’s vaccine requirement is suspended. At this time, UA will not be required to take action regarding unvaccinated employees on Jan. 4, 2022.

Because the ultimate outcome of legal challenges is not decided, we will continue to closely monitor legal developments and provide guidance to employees.

If the injunctions are lifted by the courts, UA must be ready to comply with federal requirements. If you are an employee (including student employees) who does not already have a COVID-19 vaccine record or an approved vaccine exemption on file with UA, please consider taking the following steps as a voluntary measure:

Taking these voluntary steps now will help ensure (1) medical, disability or religious exemption requests are processed in a timely manner, and (2) UA can achieve compliance if the injunctions are lifted. It also provides UA’s health and safety leadership important data to guide future decisions about on-campus safety strategies.

We remain encouraged by the high vaccination rates previously voluntarily reported by faculty, staff and students, and continue to urge others to take advantage of the free vaccines. The protection afforded by the vaccine has been essential in keeping positive case numbers low.

STUDENT EMPLOYEES – Updated Federal Guidance on Mandatory Vaccination Deadline

NOTE – NOV. 11: The Medical Provider Inquiry Form and COVID-19 Vaccine Exemption Request Form is now available. The University is required to ensure that all UA employees receive their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 4, 2022, unless they have an approved medical, disability, or religious exemption.

New federal guidance issued this week has pushed the COVID-19 vaccination or exemption deadline for UA faculty, staff, and student employees to Jan. 4, 2022.

Employees, including all student employees, requesting an exemption are strongly encouraged to submit their completed request by Nov. 19 to allow for adequate time for review and additional action — if needed — before the Jan. 4 deadline.

As a reminder, the Vaccine Management Portal is available for all faculty, staff, and student employees to report vaccination status or request a disability/medical or religious exemption.

ALL employees must TAKE ACTION in the portal, including student employees who previously uploaded vaccination documents for the Bama Cash incentive.

The University of Alabama will be observing the winter holiday period from Dec. 23, 2021, to Jan. 3, 2022, and UA strongly encourages all employees to take action before the break. However, employees can still report vaccination status and apply for exemptions through the portal during this time.

TO STUDENT EMPLOYEES- Online System for Reporting COVID-19 Vaccination, Requesting Exemption Now Available

NOTE – NOV. 11: The Medical Provider Inquiry Form and COVID-19 Vaccine Exemption Request Form is now available. The University is required to ensure that all UA employees receive their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 4, 2022, unless they have an approved medical, disability, or religious exemption.

NOTE – NOV. 5 : Please review the most recent update for Mandatory Vaccination Deadlines.

Faculty, staff and student employees:

As a follow up to the Friday, Oct. 22, communication announcing The University of Alabama’s obligation to comply with President Biden’s Executive Order 14042, the Vaccine Management Portal is now available for all faculty, staff, and student employees to report vaccination status or request a disability/medical or religious exemption.

All employees must take action in the portal. All student employees must also take action in the portal. Those who uploaded vaccination documents to receive an incentive must still complete this process.

Those who were vaccinated on campus through the University Medical Center, Student Health Center or on-campus mobile unit need only provide permission through the portal for their COVID-19 vaccination information to be shared for this purpose.

Those who were vaccinated off campus must provide proof of vaccination by uploading a copy of one of the following documents:

  • CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card;
  • Record of immunization from a health care provider or pharmacy;
  • Medical records documenting the vaccination;
  • Immunization records from a public health or state immunization information system; or
  • Other official documentation verifying vaccination with the vaccine name, administration date, and the name of the health care professional or clinic site administering the vaccine.

Employees requesting a religious exemption are strongly encouraged to complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Exemption Request Form (via the portal) no later than Nov. 12 to allow adequate time for review and additional action — if needed — before the Dec. 8 deadline.

Employees requesting an exemption due to a disability/medical condition, including pregnancy, must first have their medical provider complete the Medical Provider Inquiry Form and attach the completed form when filling out the COVID-19 Vaccine Exemption Request Form. Submissions are strongly encouraged no later than Nov. 12 to allow adequate time for review and additional action — if needed — before the Dec. 8 deadline.

As a reminder, pursuant to the terms of the Executive Order and accompanying guidance, UA faculty, staff, and student employees must be FULLY VACCINATED OR HAVE AN APPROVED EXEMPTION by Dec. 8, 2021.

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • Nov. 12 – vaccination exemption requests strongly encouraged by this date
  • Nov. 24 – last day to receive final dose to be fully vaccinated by deadline
  • Dec. 8 – deadline to be fully vaccinated or receive approved exemption

Find more information about vaccine requirements and current health and safety protocols at the healthinfo.ua.edu website or contact the HR Service Center at 205-348-7732and hrsvctr@ua.edu.

Update to Campus Health and Safety Guidelines

Consistent with Executive Order 14042 and accompanying guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, effective Nov. 5, 2021, face coverings will no longer be required for fully vaccinated individuals in most University of Alabama facilities. Current rules remain in effect until then.

After Nov. 4, masks will only be required:

  1. For unvaccinated individuals indoors, and in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with others who are unvaccinated;
  2. For all individuals in patient clinical-care settings, including the University Medical Center, the Student Health Center, the Capstone Village assisted living and specialty care units, Brewer-Porch Children’s Center, and the Working on Womanhood program; and
  3. For all individuals on Crimson Ride buses.

Unvaccinated individuals will not be required to wear masks when eating or drinking while maintaining appropriate distancing, when alone in an office with floor-to-ceiling walls and a closed door, while actively exercising, or in residence hall rooms.

To the extent practicable, individuals who are not fully vaccinated should maintain social distancing.

Anyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, should feel comfortable choosing to wear a mask, even when not required.

These face covering requirements may be updated as necessary to comply with changes to federal guidance or as needed to respond to a substantial rise in community transmission.

As additional background, on Oct. 22, 2021, UA announced that Executive Order 14042 and guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force require UA to ensure all employees, including student employees, are fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, 2021, unless granted an approved medical, disability, or religious exemption. The same federal guidance states: “In areas of low or moderate community transmission, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask. Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to physically distance regardless of the level of transmission in the area. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask indoors and in certain outdoor settings…” Tuscaloosa County is currently an area of moderate community transmission and numbers are trending downward.

Visit healthinfo.ua.edu for additional information on masking and distancing or the vaccine requirement for UA employees.

Aid available to students impacted by COVID-19

The University of Alabama recognizes the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic created for students and their families. Please know resources may be available to students with exceptional financial need.

Congress distributed funds to higher education institutions through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) III. These funds are to be used by colleges and universities to provide aid to students impacted by COVID-19. This is separate from previous federal COVID relief funding. Receipt of previous funds does not impact the ability to receive these new funds. Students with a secure Fall Semester 2021 schedule enrolled at least half time may be eligible on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are distributed.

These funds will be distributed by Student Financial Aid and Student Care and Well-Being based on a student’s demonstration of need. Students will not receive funds from both sources.

Student Financial Aid will use the Estimated Family Contribution, derived from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine the amount of funds for students that complete a 2021-2022 FAFSA and will begin reaching out to students after Labor Day.

Student Care and Well-Being will determine the amount for students that do not complete the FAFSA based on the type of emergency identified on their application.

Additional information is on the health info website.

August 27-28 Vaccine Clinics Scheduled

Walk-In Vaccine Clinic Set for Friday at the Ferg:  August 27

A pop-up, walk-in vaccine clinic featuring the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, now approved for those aged 16 or older by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will be held, Friday, August 27, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Ferguson Student Center Great Hall. No appointment required. 

Saturday, August 28 Vaccine Clinic at University Medical Center

University Medical Center will offer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, Aug. 28, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Call 205-348-1471 to schedule an appointment (required), and leave your name, birthdate and a way for UMC to contact you. Or, make an appointment for another day/time at the Student Health Center today.

Pop-up Vax Clinic, Mask Up!

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REMINDERS 

Walk-In Vaccine Clinic Set for Wednesday at the Ferg

A pop-up, walk-in vaccine clinic featuring the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is now approved for those aged 16 or older by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 25, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Ferguson Student Center Great Hall. No appointment required.

Mask Up, Bama! It’s Required
UA requires face coverings indoors on campus, including classroom buildings, regardless of vaccination status. Pull up the mask as you pull open the building door!

Vaxxed Students Can Win Grand Prize Incentives 
Students who roll up their sleeves to Protect Our Herd can win:

  • all-access parking passes
  • housing scholarships
  • away-game football tickets
  • and more.

In addition to the $40 Bama Cash reward for all students who let us know they’ve received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, students also will be entered to win several grand prizes to be awarded Aug. 23 and Aug. 30. Review the Vaccination Incentive Program rules for more details. Don’t miss your shot at claiming your award or winning a prize! Make an appointment locally or through the Student Health Center today.

Vaccinations are the key to a successful fall semester and to protecting yourself and our herd,” said 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.”

Information on COVID-19 and campus operations is being updated frequently. For more FAQs, go to UA’s healthinfo website. If you have questions not answered on the website, please call UA’s COVID-19 hotline at 205-348-CV19 (2819).