Dear Faculty and Academic Staff,
Each start of the semester during the pandemic has been faced with a new challenge. Spring 2022 is no exception. With the changes in community health conditions, I must inform you of the health and safety protocols that changed since my December 10th letter. In the past month, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has become dominant in North Texas and we are experiencing very different effects from the virus. Omicron has a shorter incubation time, milder symptoms and in most cases a quicker recovery time. The CDC has modified its guidelines to align with the characteristics of Omicron and UNT has adopted several changes to our safety protocols.
Today, I hosted a webinar that reviewed many of the existing protocols and outlined the new changes. The presentation and recorded webinar, along with the video to show on the 1st class day, are posted on the Return to Learn website. Please take some time to review the information.
For your quick reference, below are the new and revised protocols that will impact academic affairs for spring 2022. Please refer to my letter from December 10, 2021 and the Return to Learn website for additional information.
- Please utilize the free COVID testing available in the Union and the Student Health and Wellness Center if you are symptomatic or believe you may have COVID.
- COVID@unt.edu is monitoring campus COVID cases and answering COVID-related questions.
- The COVID team will continue to track positive cases and report the return to class date to faculty; however, there are changes to the contact tracing process for spring.
- Isolation and quarantine requirements align with new CDC guidelines:
- COVID-positive individuals isolate for 5 days from the onset of symptoms followed by 5 days of mask-wearing (there are exceptions based on symptoms).
- The fully vaccinated are still not required to quarantine if exposed and asymptomatic.
- The non-vaccinated must quarantine for 5 days if exposed.
- Because of the short quarantine period, contact tracers will not identify and communicate with close contacts. For this reason, seating charts and attendance records will not be needed for spring.
- If a student notified the COVID team that they have been exposed to COVID, information will be provided to the student to help identify if they need to quarantine and determine a return date. In these cases, the student is responsible for informing faculty of their absence and determining make-up work.
- Higher absenteeism is expected for spring semester.
- If staff must be absent due to COVID, caring for a family member with COVID or caring for a child whose school has closed, discuss options remote work or leave with your supervisor.
- If faculty must be absent due to COVID, caring for a family member with COVID or caring for a child whose school has closed, discuss options for continuity of instruction with your department chair to make a recommendation to dean. The dean will review and make a final decision.
- If there is significant class absenteeism due to COVID, discuss absenteeism rate and options for continuity of instruction with your department chair. The chair will make a recommendation to the dean. The dean will review and make a final decision.
- Academic Affairs will have increased flexibility for the next two weeks.
- Deans and vice provosts have increased flexibility to ensure that a mix of virtual and in-person services are available and will be communicating with supervisors regarding workplace assignments for the next two weeks.
- Faculty office hours may be conducted virtually if preferred, for the next two weeks.
- Faculty related service assignments may be conducted virtually, as appropriate, for the next two weeks.
I know this semester will be rockier than any of us would have hoped for. This next couple of weeks will be a challenge for our campus, community and country. We will work together to deliver on our mission. If you have follow-up questions after having reviewed our spring related materials, please feel free to reach out to Vice Provost Brenda Kihl at Brenda.Kihl@unt.edu with questions.
Thank you for your commitment to our students and your efforts to foster a community of learning in this world of constant disruptions. Stay safe, stay healthy and please get vaccinated and boosted if you have not already done so.
Have a wonderful semester,
Jennifer Cowley, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs