Happy New Year! We are eager for the start of the spring semester and are encouraged by the news that COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available. With more in-person classes and the hope of more face-to-face events this semester, we need everyone’s continued cooperation in following health and safety protocols. I know it can be tiring to remain vigilant as case counts continue to climb, but I have faith that our university community can work together to keep everyone healthy.
Here are ten things to keep in mind as we begin the Spring 2021 semester:
- Even with vaccines forthcoming, it’s vital that everyone take precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others.The university’s Vaccine Distribution and Administration Task Force is developing a strategy to provide ample opportunities for faculty, staff and students to be immunized when the MSDH distributes vaccines to the university. More info will be shared on our vaccination page and with the university community as soon as it’s available.
- Event protocols may change throughout the semester but, for now, they will remain the same as they were in Fall 2020. Please see this page for more details about social and academic events and look for event updates during the semester. If you have ideas for an event, bring them forward! You know what students want to do, so work with university staff who know the parameters for events.
- One of the most important tests you may take during the spring semester is a COVID-19 test. University Health Services will provide COVID-19 tests on campus for students who have symptoms. Free asymptomatic testing will be available again this semester — stay tuned for more details. You may also request a test at any of these local facilities, and please remember to report any positive tests to University Health Services.
- If you receive a positive COVID-19 test from an on- or off-campus facility, you must report it to the University Health Center at (662) 915-7274. All reports will remain anonymous and confidential. To report a positive test after hours, use the Everbridge app or submit a UHS self-report form. If you’re isolating or quarantining, you may complete the voluntary COVID-19 Student Self-Report Form to allow someone from the Student Affairs office to check in on you and offer resources. This optional form is separate from the requirement to report a positive COVID-19 test to the University Health Center.
- Masks and social distancing are still required and incredibly important. Even with vaccines becoming available, we must continue taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, both on and off campus. The university requires students, employees and visitors to wear a face mask or face covering in all indoor spaces on campus. Masks are also required outside when social distancing can’t be maintained and recommended in all outdoor spaces on campus.
- You are encouraged to self-quarantine before returning to campus to prevent unknowingly spreading the virus. If you are ill, please do not return to campus until you have tested negative for COVID-19. Contact the Student Health Center and your instructors if you will need to miss class because of an illness.
- The university continues to follow quarantine and isolation recommendations from Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC. Our COVID-19 dashboard will provide information about any outbreaks on campus, which are defined as three or more cases occurring in a group or space. The university’s Contact Tracing Team is still hard at work to keep our university safe, open and operational. Your continued cooperation is necessary and very much appreciated.
- Continue to monitor your health every day. Use the confidential and secure Daily Symptom Checker before heading out each morning.
- C19 Ambassadors will return to campus this semester to support the university community in following health and safety policies.A C19 Ambassador can help you find a mask, answer questions and direct you to resources if you need them. Care packages containing a face mask, sanitizer and health info will also be available at the Student Union for students and employees to pick up Tuesday, Jan. 19-Thursday, Jan. 21 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
- And of course, classes! This series of videos on the Keep Learning website details what to expect from Spring 2021 course delivery modes. Please watch the four main videos describing each format as well as individual faculty videos that relate to your classes.
If you need a quick, overall refresher, an updated Campus Ready module on COVID-related student responsibilities is in Blackboard for all new and returning students.
Enjoy the remainder of your break, and know that we are working hard preparing for your return. Thank you for being such an important part of keeping Ole Miss a wonderful place to learn, live and work. And remember: Be safe. Be responsible.
Charlotte Fant Pegues, Ph.D.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs