Dear campus community,
With coronavirus transmission rates rising in the Salt Lake Valley and around the state, we want you to know how the university is responding to these changing pandemic conditions—and to ask for your support and active participation working together in a One U spirit. As we begin the month of August and prepare for the start of fall semester, we are asking all faculty, students and staff to do the following:
Get a COVID-19 vaccination if you have not already done so. This is the single best way to stop this COVID resurgence in its tracks. The good news is that our campus community—students, faculty and staff—is leading by example in getting vaccinated. Summary reports (de-identified) from health insurance plans and the Utah Department of Health show more than 80% vaccination of benefited University of Utah employees and over 70% vaccination of our students attending summer classes. The overwhelming majority of hospitalized COVID patients are those who are unvaccinated. Thanks to all of you who have already taken this important step to protect yourselves and our community. If you haven’t yet received a COVID vaccine, we strongly encourage you to do so before the fall semester begins. Visit mychart.med.utah.edu, alert.utah.edu/covid/vaccine or vaccines.gov to schedule your vaccination.
If you are not yet vaccinated, get weekly asymptomatic coronavirus tests. This is a helpful way to protect yourself and those around you because asymptomatic individuals can unknowingly spread the coronavirus to others. Our asymptomatic testing centers are open; they offer easy online scheduling; the collection of saliva is fast and efficient (no nasal swabs!); they are free to university faculty, students and staff; and they typically return same-day results. Asymptomatic testing will be offered to all students as they return to campus, and coronavirus tests will be required for students living in university housing. For more information or to schedule an asymptomatic coronavirus test, visit alert.utah.edu/covid/testing.
Follow CDC guidelines regarding face masks, which now call for everyone to wear face masks indoors. As virus spread waxes and wanes during the pandemic, these guidelines periodically change, as happened this week and will likely happen again in the future. Numerous clinical studies and simulations continue to demonstrate that face masks limit the spread of virus. Perhaps we need to start thinking of face masks in the same way we think about certain articles of clothing: When the weather is cold, we put on a sweater or jacket to protect body temperature, and we remove those items when the weather turns warm. For as long as this or any future pandemic continues, we will likely need to wear face masks when transmission rates increase, and we will be able to remove them as transmission rates decline to low levels. Whether we like it or not, it seems that face masks will be a part of our lives intermittently for some time to come.
Finally, we urge faculty, student and staff leaders to model the vaccination, testing and masking behaviors we want to see in our campus community. In these uncertain times, leaders need to play an active and visible role in demonstrating the specific actions we can take right now to keep virus transmission on our campus at very low levels. We have successfully done so during the past 18 months while continuing our important work to achieve excellence in our missions and national distinction for your impressive accomplishments.
In summary, we are asking all faculty, students and staff to:
- Get a COVID-19 vaccination.
- If you are unvaccinated, get weekly asymptomatic coronavirus testing.
- Follow CDC guidelines and wear face masks when indoors.
And we are asking leaders to join us in modeling these vaccination, testing and masking behaviors for our entire university community.
Together, we have advanced the University of Utah to new heights. Together, we have supported one another through a historic and continually evolving pandemic. And together, we will continue our journey forward as one of America’s leading research universities. Thank you in advance for your ongoing help as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs