JAN. 4, 2022: President McPhee gives update on Spring semester
To the University Community,
I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year in 2022. I appreciate the hard work and dedication that you put forward last year to keep our campus operational. As we turn our attention to the start of the 2022 Spring Semester, this communication is to inform you about the challenges associated with the virus and how we intend to address them.
As you are aware, the virus is not going away any time soon. Early observation of data on the Omicron variant shows an increased spread, but it produces less severity of disease, especially in immunized individuals. According to the CDC and other medical officials, the Omicron variant is expected to peak at the end of January and slowly fall through February.
Therefore, it is important that each of us to take appropriate, personal steps to mitigate its impact and help ensure that in-person classes will resume Tuesday, Jan. 18 as scheduled.
If you have not been vaccinated, we strongly recommend getting the vaccine, and the booster shot as appropriate. It is your best defense against this virus, as public health data overwhelmingly shows it is your most effective protection against hospitalization or serious illness. Students, faculty and staff can schedule either a vaccine or booster shot, free of charge, from MTSU Student Health Services here: https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/VaccinationClinic2@mtsu.edu/bookings/.
Second, while recent state law does not allow public institutions like MTSU to mandate the wearing of face masks except under severe and specific conditions (which include a declaration by the governor of a COVID-specific state of emergency), we strongly recommend their use while inside campus buildings or when social distancing is impractical. Masking, coupled with booster vaccination, can reduce infections.
Third, we have updated our isolation protocols as recommended by state and federal public health officials. Of particular importance, the isolation requirement has been decreased to five days if symptoms are resolving, so that on Day 6 students and employees can resume activities (with masking through Day 10). Also, fully vaccinated individuals (boosted or within six months of last mRNA vaccine or within last two months of J&J) do not need to quarantine. And, those who are unvaccinated or not meeting full vaccination criteria need to quarantine five days, test on Day 5, and if negative, can resume activity wearing a mask through Day 10. You can read more about the recommendations here.
Finally, MTSU employees need to consult with their healthcare provider regarding COVID-19 treatment and notification of close contacts and they should communicate with their supervisor regarding return to work from COVID-19 illness or exposure. Also, reporting COVID-19 illness to Health Services is no longer required for MTSU faculty and staff. At present, Health Services is only contact tracing students living on campus and/or students treated in the on campus clinic.
I’ll provide further updates as we get closer to the start of classes. This pandemic continues to be stressful in so many ways – and I deeply appreciate all you have done, and will do, to stay on course. Please take care of yourself and I look forward to your return to campus.