An Update on COVID Protocols

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Message on behalf of the Senior Team from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Institutional Planning and Development and Chief of Staff

Like many of you, our Senior Team continues to monitor the changing conditions around COVID in our community. As we near the end of the Fall 2021 semester and begin thinking about spring, we want to provide information on how we will make decisions about changes to our COVID protocols and an update on spring work locations. We are confident that the many precautions we have taken and will continue to take in the spring will enable us to remain healthy and safe.

Mask Protocol

We are observing a decline in COVID transmission in both Orange and Osceola counties, as well as a reduction in cases being tracked by our COVID Case Management team of individuals who have been on campus during their infectious period. Specifically, the team is currently tracking eight cases, down significantly from our peak of 99 cases tracked in September 2021. We also anticipate that conditions will continue to improve as we move into the spring semester. As more individuals (including now, children between the ages of 5 and 12) are eligible for vaccination and new treatment options are made available, health experts expect to see lower transmission rates in our community.

How will we determine our mask protocol status? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID county tracker transmission status will be an important determinant. Currently (as of Wednesday, November 15, 2021), Orange County is at “moderate” transmission rate, and Osceola County is at a “substantial” transmission rate. The CDC recommends masks in public, indoor settings regardless of vaccination status when transmission is “high” or “substantial.” When transmission is at “low” or “moderate,” the CDC recommends masks in public, indoor settings for those who are unvaccinated.

When this status is at “moderate” or “low” for at least 30 consecutive days in both Orange and Osceola counties, we will transition to a “masks welcomed” protocol. Given this criterion and the fact that health experts expect the current decline in transmission to continue, it is likely that we will begin the Spring 2022 semester with “masks welcomed” as our protocol. We will communicate with you via a collegewide announcement when this protocol is changed and will continue to monitor conditions in the spring to determine if adjustments are needed to our protocols based on virus transmission rates in Orange and Osceola counties.

All other COVID measures will remain in place through the spring semester including physically distanced classrooms and work spaces, widely available masks and hand sanitizer, and illness reporting and contact tracing measures.

Work Locations

As shared in preparation for the fall semester, the opportunities to explore remote and place-based work have allowed us to better understand our work in relationship to one another and to our students. Since we have not yet returned to the percentage of face-to-face courses that we anticipate offering in the future as we continue to move beyond the pandemic, we will continue examining how our work locations impact service. Each vice president and campus president is working with their teams and one another to confirm plans for spring, and you should expect to hear from your leadership no later than Tuesday, November 23, 2021, if there are any changes to your spring work location.

The Senior Team will spend time in the spring semester making decisions about longer-term work locations and will seek your input as we explore options.

We have been through so much in the past year, and your patience, diligence and commitment have been critical to helping us continue prioritizing safety and meeting our students’ educational needs. As we design our new world of work and education together, we are so grateful to have each of you helping lead the way.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any member of the Senior Team or directly to Dr. Plinske.

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