Thank you for your patience, support and suggestions as we have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University will be moving to phase III of our return to work plan effective Monday, July 26, 2021. The July 26, 2021 date allows enough time between now and the Fall semester to ensure we are adequately prepared for the Fall and available to provide consistent in-person services to our community in time for the start of the main academic calendar. Leadership in each school or college may provide additional guidance, particularly in our professional schools, which have an earlier start date for classes and may implement phase III earlier. We are currently completing phase II of the University’s return to work plan, which was distributed in May. We are pleased to update that, over this period of time, a number of staff have returned physically to campus, we have successfully implemented a pilot of several face-to-face courses, a group of students has moved into residence halls, and several professional schools are preparing to welcome new students to the University. Of note, we have been conducting routine and mandatory COVID‐19 testing since August 2020, performed in our on‐campus laboratory for faculty, students and staff who are accessing campus. Since testing was initiated last Fall, there have been over 35,000 COVID‐19 tests performed. The overall positivity rate for students has been 0.84 percent. The overall positivity rate for faculty and staff has been 0.54 percent. Additionally, a recent survey of students and employees indicates that 90 percent of employee respondents (1,200 respondents or 40 percent of employees) and 87 percent of student respondents (over 5,000 respondents) report that they have already been vaccinated with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
The successful implementation of phase II objectives, as well as guidance from the CDC and Washington, D.C. department of health, supports our transition to phase III of the return to work Plan. During phase III, the remaining workforce will no longer be working under emergency telework status and will be returned to campus to conduct final preparations for the 2021-22 academic year and the full return of our students. As such, managers should begin to consider whether telework arrangements are appropriate pursuant to the revised University’s Telework Policy and FAQs prior to July 26. As the first day of classes for undergraduate students is Monday, August 23, 2021, it is critical that our faculty and staff be prepared to support students in their return to campus. In sum, most Howard employees, with some exceptions noted above, will be working their regular full or part-time schedule physically at the University.
Employees are encouraged to get vaccinated. COVID‐19 testing for all individuals on campus will continue to be required. Unvaccinated faculty, staff and students must be tested twice weekly. Vaccinated individuals must be tested once weekly, although we may transition to monthly testing for vaccinated individuals only, based upon initial data. In addition, employees and students must complete the daily self-assessment tool on the Bison S.A.F.E. app and wear face masks or face coverings on campus in any public area and nonprivate office.
Public health guidelines and safety requirements will be continuously monitored by the University and incorporated into our policies and procedures, which must be implemented by departments/units.
With some exceptions, physical distancing guidelines at the University will presume that members of the community:
- Maintain a minimum of three feet separation from other individuals;
- Consider moving or removing equipment, furniture and workstations to allow for physical separation;
- Reconfigure shared offices to allow physical distancing between occupants; and
- Maintain utilization of masks in office environments where there are shared workspaces and mixed vaccination status.
We anticipate that we will be able to remove physical distancing requirements secondary to broad vaccination adoption this Fall.
The University will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends in the district, metropolitan areas and nation and will update our plan as necessary. Phase III of our return to work plan, which becomes effective starting July 26, 2021, will allow us to be more fully prepared to meet and support our new and returning students for the 2021-22 academic year.