The first week of the academic semester is always a powerful reminder of why we are here. We welcomed our students back and saw our classrooms come alive once more with engagement and learning. Our faculty and staff continued to foster the kind of community that is only possible on a robust, residential campus like ours.
I’m grateful to you for everything you have done to make this week possible.
We are continuing to do everything we can as well. We have resumed required weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals on our campus. Importantly, we also are providing free testing services for members of our community. You may access these services at no cost, whether you are symptomatic or simply wish to test as an additional precaution.
We also are continuing our commitment to providing our community with transparent and timely information about the impact of the virus.
The circumstances on our campus are vastly different than this time a year ago. The vast majority of our community is vaccinated. The CDC guidelines with respect to isolation and quarantine have been updated. And, of course, we are dealing with a much more transmissible variant.
As we have from the beginning, we are letting evidence and recommendations from health experts guide our response.
It is important to remember that we are supporting a large community of individuals who physically come to campus — a total of more than 45,000 people. As such, it is important to view the numbers on our dashboard in that context. We will continue to update the dashboard twice a week — a cadence we have adopted given the complexity of the testing, vaccine and contact tracing data we receive and process each day.
Given the nature of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, we know that we will detect many cases of the virus this spring. But it is important to remember that those active cases are among a large community of individuals who are mostly vaccinated and who have a robust public health infrastructure supporting them.
Please continue to utilize this infrastructure — the hub of which is UK Health Corps — to support your well-being.
Also, if you have not gotten vaccinated, please do so. Sign up for a vaccine at ukvaccine.org. While we have reached impressive and important rates of vaccination on our campus, we have more work to do.
We must – and we do – take the virus seriously. We have put in place the measures and support necessary to help our campus remain safe and healthy. And we will never hesitate to do more if it is necessary. At the same time, we will continue every effort to support the residential, in-person class experience for our students that makes the education we provide so distinctive. It is an essential part of how we advance Kentucky.
We continue to have very high vaccination levels, even as we are incorporating a number of new students into our community. Here are the latest numbers:
UK community: 91.0%
UK campus: 90.1%
UK HealthCare: 93.1%
Please continue to do your part. Here is how:
1. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
2. Get your booster. Boosters have proven particularly effective against Omicron. It is essential that members of our community get their booster shot. Learn more here. You also can read more below about an upcoming booster incentive program, which will award cash prizes to faculty, staff and students.
3. Wear a mask indoors. Mask-wearing continues to be required in all indoor spaces on campus. Compliance with this measure is even more important with a highly transmissible variant.
4. The university has purchased two KN95 masks for everyone who comes to the main campus. We are in the process of ordering more. These masks have been delivered to all colleges and units. If you have not received yours, please check with your unit leadership.
5. If you see that people are not compliant with mask-wearing and want to report it, you have several options. Learn more here.
6. Get your flu shot. The flu is particularly harsh this season, as our health care facilities continue to manage increased cases from the Omicron variant. Sign up for your flu shot today if you haven’t already. Learn more here.
Booster Incentive Program
Last semester, we experienced great success with our vaccine incentive programs for students and employees.
This semester, we will build upon those efforts with a booster incentive program. We will offer cash prizes to individuals who sign up for the program and provide documentation of their booster shot.
Learn more about the employee booster incentive program.
Learn more about the student booster incentive program.
Court Rulings and Vaccines
Yesterday a U.S. Supreme Court ruling placed a stay – effectively stopping – efforts to mandate vaccines for large companies under the authority of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. If enacted, the mandate would have applied to the university.
In another ruling yesterday, the Court lifted lower court injunctions against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) mandate. The CMS mandate requires COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers. Over the next few weeks, UK HealthCare leaders will look at the impact of this decision on those working at UK HealthCare. More information on the reinstated mandate will be communicated soon to those who will be impacted.
I’m deeply grateful for every member of this community who continues to fulfill our missions of education, research, service and care.