With the Jan. 21 start of the spring semester just one week away, University of Wyoming students returning to campus are reminded that a limited contact period begins today (Thursday) and extends through Jan. 31.
Additionally, students and employees are expected to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance upon returning from winter break, including reducing nonessential activities for up to 10 days and being tested for COVID-19 three to five days following return.
The semester will begin with two days of online-only instruction Thursday and Friday, Jan. 21-22, and face-to-face classes will start Monday, Jan. 25.
For students living on campus, the residence halls will open Tuesday, Jan. 19, with students arriving on assigned arrival dates between then and Sunday, Jan. 24. Those students’ first stop will be Crane Hall, where required COVID-19 testing will take place, before they check in at the front desks of their assigned halls. Students tested before noon between Tuesday and Thursday will receive results by 5 p.m. each day, and they’re expected to shelter in place until a negative test result is received.
Students living off campus should take a COVID-19 test before returning to in-person classes or activities on campus. They’ll need to make appointments for such testing, which will be available starting Tuesday, Jan. 19. Appointments can be made starting Friday, Jan. 15. More details about scheduling tests will be communicated via email, and additional testing information is available here.
During the limited contact period, students are allowed to attend in-person classes, participate in work and worship engagements, and be outside; but they are expected to limit their in-person contacts to people living on the same floor of a residence hall or the same apartment/residence.
“These measures are necessary to give us a chance to be successful in providing a safe face-to-face engagement on campus amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Cases are on the rise again in Wyoming and across the country, and it is important we do our part to mitigate that spread,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “We’re very hopeful that, with vaccines being administered to targeted populations now and wide administration expected by this summer, our fall semester will be much more in line with pre-pandemic practices.”
As was the case during the fall semester, UW will continue measures throughout the spring to limit the spread of COVID-19, including a rigorous testing, quarantine and isolation program; requirements for face protection and physical distancing; and limits on gatherings. Students, faculty and staff coming to campus or returning to work will be required to participate in UW’s surveillance testing program, using UW’s laboratory-developed, saliva-based tests.
Students not returning to campus at any time during the semester will not be required to participate, but they need to receive testing exemptions. Students living on campus, working on campus and taking in-person classes are automatically included in the testing program and will receive emails to schedule their tests once the semester begins. Those not automatically included who plan to be on campus for in-person programs or support services need to complete an opt-in form so they are compliant with testing expectations.
Undergraduate students who are part of the surveillance program will be tested twice per week; graduate students and employees will be tested once per week.
UW employees and students will continue to be expected to use the COVID Pass tool daily to self-screen for COVID-19-like symptoms. Those who are noncompliant with the testing requirements will receive a “red” flag similar to an individual with symptoms, restricting access to campus.
The spring plan approved by the UW Board of Trustees calls for a semester that includes 10 weeks of in-person instruction, a three-day spring break and five weeks of fully online classes to conclude the term. In addition to the abbreviated March 31-April 4 spring break, no classes will be held on Presidents Day Monday, Feb. 15. Starting April 5, all classes will move to online delivery, with the final day of classes May 6 and finals week May 10-14.
The university is working with the Wyoming Department of Health and Albany County Public Health to make COVID-19 vaccines available as soon as possible to mitigate transmission of the virus and allow the other preventative measures to be more effective. Certain front-line employees are receiving the vaccine now, but it’s uncertain when all students and employees will have access to the vaccine.
As a result, the move to online-only course delivery following spring break follows the same rationale for the decision to go online during the fall semester following Thanksgiving break: to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission that would be caused by students leaving campus and then returning.
While close to 40 percent of UW courses currently are slated to be delivered fully online in the spring — up from the historical figure of 15 percent — about 60 percent are planned to include in-person components during the Jan. 25-March 30 period. The in-person classes will continue to be held in classrooms that are arranged to meet physical-distancing requirements, along with enhanced cleaning measures.
Under the plan, the university continues to track and monitor a set of key indicators of COVID-19 prevalence on campus to support data-based decision-making. These include the total number of symptomatic cases among students and employees; testing sample disease prevalence; capacity for isolation and quarantine; and hospitalizations.
There are no automatic actions to be triggered by hitting certain indicator thresholds, but UW will continue to coordinate closely with state and local authorities to assess conditions in the community and determine appropriate interventions.
Since the pandemic began, UW has reported a total of 1,865 cases of COVID-19 among its employees and students, with 1,846 people recovered. At present, there are 19 active cases — one on-campus student, nine off-campus students and nine employees.
More information about UW’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions about testing and other COVID-19 issues may call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.