December 2, 2021

COVID Updates

To all Faculty and Staff:

We made it through the first week of classes! It has been great to see students back on campus, classes starting up again, and all that comes with the start of the fall semester. Of course, it hasn’t been without its bumps and so we want to make sure everyone has the most up-to-date information. [Please read through to the end. There is lots of important information here.]

  • FDA Approval – Last week the Food and Drug Administration has provided full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, removing its EUA status. For those small numbers of students and employees who are not vaccinated, please do get vaccinated now. We know that the emergency approval was a concern for some, but the FDA has provided that full approval now, so contact your local pharmacy, drugstore, health care provider or https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a Pfizer vaccine today!
  • Masking reminders – In general, UMW community members have successfully returned to masking indoors. We have heard a few concerns expressed, however, especially as people enter buildings or get up from eating or drinking, or enter into spaces with other people. Our Students Care Ambassadors will be coming back this fall to help remind people about the masking policy indoors, but remember that everyone has a role to play in reminding people about masking.
    • Because people have asked and as clarification, appropriate face coverings do not include bandanas. Face shields are also insufficient by themselves. Gaiters can be used but only if they have at least two layers. More on types of masks can be found at the CDC’s site.
  • If you have concerns about COVID enforcement or actions, remember that the Report a COVID Concern is still an option. Please include as much information as possible so that we can address those concerns.
  • Exposure warnings for vaccinated people – new this fall, we are reaching out to vaccinated people who have a known close contact exposure to a COVID positive case with an email about the recent CDC guidance for exposed but vaccinated “to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.”  If you get one of these emails, do not panic. It does not mean you have COVID or are even likely to get COVID. It does not mean that you need to quarantine, nor that you need to tell all of your close contacts. Rather, out of an abundance of caution we are letting you know that you should take a few more precautions and get tested if you have any COVID symptoms, and if not, you should still get tested 3-5 days from receipt of the email. Please note, because of privacy regulations we cannot tell you where or how you were exposed.
    • As has been the case, unvaccinated people who are close contacts will need to quarantine for two weeks, per CDC/VDH recommendations. They will be contacted separately.
    • Positive cases will still isolate for 10 days from positive test or start of symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.
    • Please do not ask students to reveal their vaccination status. The HR, Public Health team, and the local health district can do so as part of implementing the vaccination, testing, and contact tracing system, but they are exceptions.
  • We want to point out again that because we are not social distancing, the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated close contact exposures will be much higher for each case than was true last year.
  • Vaccination rates – The good news is that Faculty and Staff are nearly at 91% vaccinated and it looks like students will end up right at about 95% vaccinated. Thank you to all of you for helping to protect the UMW community.

Jeff and Dave, on behalf of the Public Health Advisory Working Group

Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plan

After a quiet summer, our campuses are ready to welcome new and returning students, and we are excited about the semester ahead. In recent weeks, we experienced the freedom and joy gained from highly effective vaccines. At the same time, our enthusiasm has been tempered by the news of a fourth surge of COVID-19 and the emergence of more transmissible and dangerous variants.

The good news is that with 18 months of experience we now have the knowledge and tools to minimize the risk while returning to many of the things that define the UMW experience. And our greatest tool is the high vaccination rates among our students and employees. This is the single most important thing we could all do together to return to the in-person activities that are characteristic of the UMW experience.

This summer, the COVID Implementation Team shifted to a Public Health Advisory Working Group, embedding the work of the group within the offices of Student Health, HR, and Public Safety, as well as our COVID Care team, with leadership from COVID Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator Dave Fleming. Throughout the summer, he has been leading the Public Health Advisory Working Group in preparing for the fall in conversations about vaccinations, testing, masking, and tracing. Jeff McClurken, as UMW’s COVID Director, has been working with the other Public Higher Education COVID Directors and statewide officials at the VDH and the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce and Trade to clarify expectations, options, and directions for the fall.

Today, we write to share some additional important updates about the fall semester and how we will approach together our return to campus. In doing so, we are informed by ongoing guidance from VDH and the CDC, partnerships with the local Rappahannock Area Health District and Mary Washington Healthcare. Further direction has come from Governor Northam’s announcement on August 5, recent CDC Guidance for IHEs and vaccinated people, along with careful attention to local COVID conditions in the Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania area.

While the full details of our plan are contained in the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for 2021-2022 Academic Year, here are the key highlights (please note: The Cabinet and the Public Health Advisory Working Group will regularly re-evaluate these guidelines depending on university and local conditions and numbers):

  1. Masks. Besides vaccines, the wearing of a well-fitting mask is highly effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, including its variants. Consequently, to start the semester, masks will be required indoors in public spaces, which include all classrooms, laboratories, meeting spaces, foyers and hallways, and auditoriums. Masks are not required in one’s own residence hall room, private offices, other spaces where you are alone, and when eating and drinking. We are also developing a process for limited exemptions to this indoor requirement for certain academic, co-curricular, and physical activities. We strongly recommend wearing a mask when outdoors in large groups.
  2. Mandatory vaccinations. Governor Northam’s directive requires vaccines for all state employees and contractors. While the majority of our employees and contractors have taken this step voluntarily, it is now a requirement. Exemptions to this requirement are limited and all employees who do not provide proof of vaccination are required to complete a COVID-19 test each week as a condition of employment. UMW’s testing of unvaccinated employees begins the week of August 23.
  3. Testing when symptomatic. One of the important changes to the CDC’s guidance in recent weeks is that everyone who has COVID symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status, should stay away from others and get tested. Students can contact the Student Health Center, while employees should consult their health care provider or get tested at a local pharmacy. In addition, vaccinated people who are exposed but are asymptomatic should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure.

We should also be taking sensible precautions for the next few weeks at least as we pay attention to current conditions. For example, utilizing Zoom and other technologies in the routine conduct of business is encouraged and will continue to be supported, especially when it avoids bringing large numbers of people together in-person when there is no direct discernable benefit. An approach that places a premium on in-person experiences (e.g. classes, office hours, and many other activities where being in the same space is uniquely valuable) can be balanced with virtual convenings where possible.

Similarly, for now, even with vaccines and masks, at a time when our region is one where there is substantial or high transmission of the virus, we should be sensible about large (over 150 people) indoor gatherings. This means holding large gatherings outdoors where possible. It also means promoting extra distancing by utilizing larger indoor spaces or taking advantage of streaming options for large gatherings that would typically involve congregation in auditoriums at or near capacity.

The steps outlined above offer us the best chance of resuming a high-quality in-person experience while mitigating the risks in a university community. Currently nearly 90% of our campus community has been fully vaccinated, but we are situated within a region for which the CDC reports substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 and relatively low vaccination rates. As conditions change, we anticipate regular re-evaluation of these modifications and adjusting accordingly throughout the semester and year.

Attached is UMW’s return to campus plan that includes these pieces (and it is linked to UMW’s COVID pages). Updates to the plan will be added to UMW’s COVID pages.

Dave Fleming & Jeff McClurken

 

McClurken Comments on J&J Vaccine Pause on WJLA

UMW's Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Dr. Jeffrey W. McClurken

UMW’s Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Dr. Jeffrey W. McClurken

UMW Chief of Staff and Professor of History and American Studies Jeff McClurken, one of the University’s COVID co-coordinators, was interviewed on WJLA ABC-7 news about how the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine pause will impact efforts to get college students vaccinated before they return home for the summer.

“One of the things J&J offered as a one-dose vaccine is the ability at the end of the school year to go ahead and get students vaccinated, and then they could go home and not have to worry about a second dose,” said Jeffrey McClurken, who is co-coordinator of the COVID response at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “So, this certainly raises some logistical complications for us to try to figure out.” Read more.

COVID Vaccination Interest — Sign up now!

A message from the COVID Co-Coordinators. 

All UMW Faculty and Staff,

Thank you for your patience. We have great news. Our local health district (RAHD) is getting ready to move into phase 1c and so has just asked us for a list of all UMW employees who are willing to get the COVID Vaccine, something we strongly encourage. Please fill out the linked form even if you have already registered at vaccinate.virginia.gov, but not if you have already received one or two doses of the COVID vaccine. Note that this access to the vaccine is because of your employment at UMW and so RAHD will offer a vaccine even if you live in another health district.

Please fill the brief form out ASAP so that we can go ahead and share this information with the Rappahannock Area Health District.

Jeff and Tim

 

When the Pandemic Struck, UMW Persevered

UMW sophomore Andrew Newman poses on a Campus Walk bench. The University community pulled together this fall to follow MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) guidelines and minimize the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. Increased pandemic-related measures will be employed this spring.

UMW sophomore Andrew Newman poses on a Campus Walk bench. The University community pulled together this fall to follow MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) guidelines and minimize the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. Increased pandemic-related measures will be employed this spring.

Eager to begin her college career at Mary Washington, Sarah Bazemore moved into Willard Hall in September, stocking her room with masks and sanitizer.

Little did she know that she would end her first semester living in Marshall Hall under quarantine. Bazemore and two of her friends were among several dozen students who were either exposed to or came down with COVID-19 in fall 2020.

Even so, she rated the entire semester an A+. “I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be on campus this fall, and I’m beyond impressed with the way UMW handled COVID-19,” she said. “Even when we entered quarantine, there was a plan. At no time was I unable to get the support I needed or an answer to my questions.”

Only 40 students utilized the more than 100 designated quarantine/isolation rooms on campus. That, added Bazemore, “says a lot about the student body and our administration. We followed MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) and did all we could to keep COVID-19 away from UMW.”

Plenty of planning and extreme vigilance paid off. While the pandemic rages across the globe, the University ended up with fewer than 50 COVID cases since the end of August.

“I’m filled with pride by the way the Mary Washington community has thus far risen to this challenge,” said President Troy Paino. “We have proven something to ourselves: We can adapt, innovate and persevere.” Read more.

Seeking Assistance in Providing COVID-19 Support

A message from the COVID-19 Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator.

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings from the COVID Care team!  

One of the lessons we learned this fall is that we need more help and numerous backups to ensure smooth operation of our testing, tracing and student support services. We have designed a survey for individuals who would be interested in serving in one of several volunteer or part-time positions for the spring semester. If you are so inclined, please complete the survey accessible through this form. We will reach out to individuals who expressed an interest in helping upon our return after winter break.

Please note that the link works best in Chrome or Firefox and you will need to sign in using your UMW credentials to complete it.  

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at COVID19@umw.edu. 

Sincerely,

David W. Fleming
Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing
COVID-19 Monitoring and Tracing Coordinator

Required Spring Semester COVID-19 Training for faculty and staff

The following message is from the COVID-19 Implementation Team.

To all faculty and staff:

Welcome to 2021, which we believe to be a more hope-filled year. We are looking forward to having students back on campus for the spring semester, and we appreciate your continued hard work and flexibility. In keeping with our goal of minimizing risk, you are required to complete by Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the following COVID-19 related steps. This requirement applies even if you are joining us virtually.

  1. Take the Spring COVID-19 training in the Learning Center and sign-off on the Eagle Pledge. Instructions are at the bottom of this email.
  2. Fill out the Eagle Health Survey every day unless you are furloughed. The Eagle Health Survey will be emailed to your UMW inbox every morning.
  3. In order to create a healthier environment for all members of the University community, please limit your activities, interactions, and travel for 14 days prior to returning to campus to reduce your potential exposure to the virus. This includes adhering to UMW’s MMDC guidelines as well as all federal, state, CDC guidelines.

To access the COVID training (please use Firefox or Chrome):

Login to the Learning Center at https://covlc.virginia.gov using your Learning Center credentials. These credentials may not be the same as your UMW credentials; to reset your login ID or password use the “forgot your login ID or password” option to reset either or both.

  1. Once you are logged into https://covlc.virginia.gov, enter UMWCOVID in the search box (magnifying glass in the upper right).
  2. Open UMW COVID-19 Training 2021.
  3. You will see three items, two of which you must complete.
  • Select the appropriate UMW COVID training module (for either new or continuing employees). Read the content in the presentation, then mark the item complete.
  • Access the Eagle Pledge. Once you have read the Eagle Pledge, mark the item complete.  Doing so indicates that you have read the document and will comply with it.

If you need assistance logging into the Learning Center, please reach out to Pam Lowery (plowery@umw.edu).

Remember to #ProtectTheNest by following MMDCMonitor. Mask. Distance. Clean.

Thank you.