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January 8, 2021

Happy New Year and welcome back!

This week began our January term (“J-term”), returning faculty and students back to the classroom for face-to-face learning. Throughout this pandemic, safety and ensuring face-to-face learning have been our guiding principles and this will continue into the spring term as we come back together for classes on January 25. Continuing in-person learning this spring, and adapting to changing conditions of the pandemic will mean some optimizations to our protocols from fall, though many things will remain the same. Let me elaborate.

Expanded In-Person Learning
Our faculty and academic leadership have worked hard with Mesa County Public Health to expand in-person learning where possible while maintaining safety protocols. For the spring semester, two out of every three classes are fully in person — and four out of five classes have an in-class component. As always, we are committed to continuous improvement. While students were learning last fall, we, too, were learning. We will continue to make real-time adjustments this spring as conditions improve. If/when possible, some currently hybrid sections may revert back to in-person if safety and effective learning are maintained.

This coming semester, there will be many COVID safety protocols that will continue just as they were in fall. We will again require all members of the campus community to participate in baseline testing to ensure we all come together safely with a COVID-negative test result prior to January 25th (except for those individuals that tested positive after October 25, 2020, who will not be required to retest for Spring baseline testing, per CDC guidelines). Next, we will perform a second, additional screening of Mavilies (residence halls, athletics, performing arts, etc.) during the first week of classes to ensure we kick off our semester safely. Throughout the term we will continue to perform random and reflexive testing, as well as monitor the wastewater of residence halls. Additionally, we will launch an expanded off-campus/non-CMU testing strategy for off-campus close contacts (e.g. non-student roommates, spouses, etc.) to ensure the university-community transmission chain is mitigated to the maximum extent possible. Protecting our community will mean protecting our campus, and vice versa.

Contact Tracing
Our contact tracing efforts this fall were nothing short of amazing, thanks to our dedicated team of faculty and staff volunteers led by Dr. Kristin Heumann and Michael Hughes. Key to this effort heading into the spring will be the redoubling our commitment to utilizing the Scout app. In addition to accessing Scout in MAVzone, you may also download the ‘native’ app in the Apple App Store by searching and downloading “Sentinel Scout”—the Google/Android Store app is still in development. Scout has undergone a number of improvements and optimizations, and the ‘Green Screen’ feature will continue to be your wellness passport to campus. You will be seeing more information regarding Scout changes and improvements in the coming days and weeks.

The university has been closely monitoring the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination. In fact, this week we began talks with Mesa County Public Health regarding vaccine distribution among at-risk and essential workers(“Phase 1B” of the distribution plan). The university is currently working to provide a prioritized list of essential workers for vaccination when it becomes available; and while we do not know precisely when that may be, we are told it could be yet this month. Finally, those members of the campus community who have questions about the science behind the vaccine, its development, or other related questions may feel free to reach out to our very own Dr. Michael Reeder, a former physician and now faculty member who has been assisting our Safe Together, Strong Together team as the university’s lead resource for vaccine information.

Changed/Optimized Protocols
We learned a lot this past fall. Some of our strategies worked quite well, while others proved to be less important or are no longer relevant. Below are some key changes/optimizations the campus can expect this spring:

  • Travel restrictions that were in place this past fall are no longer useful, as virtually all parts of the country, as well as here in Mesa County, have reached elevated transmission levels. Rather than prohibiting travel outside of the region, we are asking that students, faculty, and staff observe careful travel safety protocols if they must travel.
  • Mask wearing will continue to be required in all indoor campus spaces (other than private offices).
  • Directional signage and one-way travel in campus buildings will be removed; social distancing practices will continue to be followed and individuals are asked to avoid crowding. 

Overall, our commitment to each other has not changed. We will continue to lean in to our work transforming lives and providing a world-class education to our students. But it will again require all of us working together to achieve a safe and effective semester. I have asked Dr. Amy Bronson and VP John Marshall to continue their leadership of our COVID response efforts through the spring and you can expect to continue hearing from them regularly on the various plans and related efforts of the university as we work through this pandemic.

Thank you for your continued good faith and hard work for CMU. And welcome back!

Tim Foster, President