LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 20, 2021) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto issued a weekly update to the campus community about the university's response to COVID-19 on the afternoon of Friday. Aug, 20. You can read that update message below.
Dear Campus Community,
We are continuing to bolster our collective response to COVID-19 as we prepare for a new academic year. I would like to share with you several updates, as part of our weekly Friday communication:
- The percentage of returning students, faculty and staff on campus who have been fully vaccinated (or are in the process of being fully vaccinated) as of this morning stands at 72.5 percent. That’s up from 71.4 percent only a week ago and is up more than 3 percentage points since late July.
- We are making tangible progress toward our goal: reaching and exceeding an 80 percent vaccination rate among our community early in the year. Vaccines, without question, are our best tool to defeat this virus.
- As a reminder, we will include new students in our community vaccination percentage beginning in early September. The rationale behind not including them now is simple: we are receiving hundreds of self-reported vaccine documents from new students each night. As such, we don’t believe will have an accurate number for that population until they arrive on campus and understand how to report their vaccine status to us. As demonstrated by the number of self-reports we’ve received and the number of vaccine appointments that have been scheduled, we clearly are making progress. It’s an encouraging signal of our collective commitment to the health, safety and well-being of everyone in our community.
- You can view those vaccine rates on our COVID-19 dashboard, which is updated weekly. The dashboard also details isolation capacity and utilization, as well as active and newly reported cases of the virus within our community.
- Next week, we will start to update the dashboard with testing numbers among students. Entry testing for unvaccinated students began in earnest this week. As a reminder, unvaccinated students who have not yet completed their entry test must do so by August 27. Schedule your test here as soon as possible.
- To further encourage vaccinations, we have started an incentive program for our students. Over the last few weeks, thousands of new and current students have uploaded their vaccination documentation to us. But we have more work to do.
- We are offering incentives — such as drawings for free tuition, Railbird music festival tickets and other prizes — for all students who have been vaccinated. You can read more about that incentive program here.
- Yesterday, we distributed to the campus our updated Fall Guidebook. A planning committee — comprised of elected faculty, students and staff alongside administrators — has worked on this project for weeks. We also received comments and questions from about 450 members of our campus community regarding a first draft that helped inform the latest draft.
- This version includes a few important updates and clarifications. Most significantly, we have added language about masks not being required when exercising and, working with our International Center, we have added information about university-endorsed travel. We also have clarified that face shields are an appropriate alternative to masks.
- You can read the details of the guidebook here. Our planning committee will continue meeting throughout the semester and, of course, we will make updates and changes, if and when necessary, to protect our community.
Finally, I want to remind you of the principles we are using to make decisions about policies, procedures and processes with respect to our COVID-19 response. They are listed below:
- Vaccination rates among the UK community
- Supply of personal protective equipment
- Prevalence of the virus
- The capacity for daily screening and ongoing contact tracing
- The capacity for isolation and quarantining
- The ability to provide residential experience on our campus
- Guidance from local, state and federal health and public policy officials
- The number of critical care beds in UK HealthCare to serve both campus and community
We don’t look to one indicator, or one specific trigger, when making decisions. We look at a range of factors that guide our decision-making.
This virus is nimble. We must be as well. We must make health and safety our priority, and we do. At the same time, health and safety, for us, is a holistic term. Physical health is critical. Equally important are mental health and well-being.
For example, we know our students need, and want, to be in the classroom. Technology can enhance learning, but it can’t replace the in-person experience of being with and learning from faculty and students.
That’s true of education. It’s also true of mental health and well-being, as students across the country — from K-12 schools to colleges and universities — are returning to the classroom. At the same time, we have to be flexible with our community as issues arise, from child and parental care to flexibility around working from home when necessary. We’ve worked to embed that flexibility in our plans for the fall.
The residential and classroom experience makes us distinctive, as does our academic medical center and research capacity. All of those things on one contiguous campus make us special. They are critical to who we are and what we do.
We can protect our community, working smartly and working together. It is our commitment as we move into a new academic year — one filled with challenge, to be sure, but also ripe with opportunities to find new ways of fulfilling our mission to advance Kentucky.