Dear Campus Community,
As plans continue for the start of a new academic year, I want to update you on where we are –and what steps we need to take as a community – to continue to ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone at UK. Here’s the latest:
- First, there is a great deal of data and different points of view regarding how institutions like ours and others should respond to COVID-19 at this moment. One thing is indisputably clear: vaccinations are our best defense against the virus, and while we have made great progress, there is more to do now on our campus.
- Second, while most of our campus is vaccinated – nearly 70 percent is fully vaccinated or in the process of it – over the next several weeks, we want to exceed 80 percent. In particular, we have to ramp up our efforts to vaccinate our students. We are intently focused on our efforts to do so.
- Third, as a note specifically to our students: we are here for you. The best way we can create the safest and most rewarding experience will be by ensuring you are vaccinated and have uploaded your vaccine documentation in our system. We will regularly update our campus vaccination percentage over the next couple of weeks, as we continue to strive to reach 80 percent.
- Fourth, if we don’t make that progress on vaccinations as quickly as we must, we will be ready to quickly institute other strategies – such as additional masking requirements – to keep our community safe. Teams of health professionals, operations officials, faculty, staff and students are meeting regularly now to plan and prepare for the fall. We can, and will, pivot when we need to do so.
- Fifth and finally, it’s important to remember that mitigation measures we announced in June continue to be in place, such as masking and testing requirements for those who are not vaccinated. You can read that announcement here.
Here are some details about each of those important points regarding our strategy:
To date, more than 68 percent of our campus community – returning students, faculty and staff – has been fully vaccinated or is in the process of being fully vaccinated. It is a tremendous effort. But our goal is to move that number to at least 80 percent early in the new school year.
Classes start Aug. 23, and students begin arriving in a few weeks. We are investing nearly $200,000 in incentives around a campaign to vaccinate students in our community. We will provide more details on those efforts in the coming days.
Our START team of medical and health professionals – led by Acting Provost Bob DiPaola, M.D. – met this week to examine the latest numbers with respect to COVID-19 as well as current recommendations of federal and state health officials. They will be meeting regularly again throughout the academic year.
A fall planning committee, chaired by Associate Vice President for Administration James Frazier and composed of faculty, staff, students and administration, is updating plans and policies for the start of the academic year. We expect to publish a planning guide in the next two weeks that will provide more details about our status and ongoing efforts.
And my leadership team and I are in constant communication regarding the virus and our efforts to ensure we are maintaining fidelity to our most important priority – the health, safety and well-being of our community.
If and when we need to institute other measures, we will not hesitate to do so. As a reminder, though, we are engaging in other mitigation efforts already:
- If you are unvaccinated – as a current member of our community or a visitor to our campus – masks are required indoors and outdoors if you are around other people.
- Students who are unvaccinated will complete an entry test upon arrival to campus in the next few weeks, and they will continue to be tested regularly.
- Students who are not vaccinated also will be asked to complete a daily screener regarding their health status.
- Students who do not follow these requirements will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.
- UK Health Corps will continue their contact tracing efforts, as part of our modern public health infrastructure.
We have proven our capacity to do big things – providing more than a quarter million shots of healing and hope, vaccinating K-12 school employees in our community within weeks, helping ensure the health of first responders and health officials and, of course, vaccinating a majority of our campus quickly and efficiently.
Our community has always met the moment. Now, we must do so again. I know that we will.
Thank you for all you do to make this special community possible.
Eli Capilouto President