Provost’s Fall 2021 Campus Planning Update: August
We want to begin this update by acknowledging that the last few weeks have been extraordinarily challenging for all of us. New difficulties have arrived on the heels of an already-painful academic year and then a brief period during which our hopes soared as COVID infection rates plummeted. Together, we breathed a collective sigh of relief—though, given that we were often part of large groups, we did so behind face coverings and at a safe distance from neighbors and friends.
Now we, as a nation, find ourselves temporarily moving in the wrong direction in our fight against the pandemic. Low vaccination rates in some parts of the country, coupled with the politicization of face coverings, has fostered a dramatic increase in caseload and hospitalizations. These behaviors have abetted the natural progression of the virus, allowing the delta variant to become the dominant strain of COVID-19. Breakthrough infections are on the rise—though the best data indicates that serious illness and hospitalizations are still very rare among vaccinated individuals without significant comorbidities.
We understand that these events may be causing you and your loved ones concern and, in some instances, creating anxiety about returning to campus this fall. In the strongest terms possible, we want to say that we understand this reaction, and we are very sorry that, more than a year and a half into the pandemic, we all find ourselves dealing with so much uncertainty and worry.
At the same time, we also want to stress that we have science on our side. The vaccines are performing very well against the virus, and, as we have stated many times before, they remain our best defense against COVID-19. As you will see below, we are taking an aggressive approach to enforcing UC’s systemwide vaccine mandate in order to protect our community and to fulfill our obligations as engaged scholars, teachers, practitioners and citizens. Every student, academic, clinician and staff member will have to provide proof of vaccination or be granted an approved exception from the mandate. Individuals who do not abide by the mandate will not be permitted to attend classes, teach, or work on campus or in other UC Davis facilities. It's that simple—even if the reality of arriving at this point, and taking next steps collectively, will be complex.
We remain confident, based on the science, that reopening in the fall will be safe and in the best interests of our faculty, staff, students and the community beyond. We also know that this viewpoint is not universally held. And so, as you will see below, we have made provisions for those individuals who wish, based on a set of qualifying reasons, to seek exemptions from policy. We also plan to have greater access to support, including a larger cohort of mental health professionals, for every member of our community. And, of course, we will continue to monitor national, state and county public health guidelines. Should it become necessary to pivot to remote work, we know that we can make that transition and still achieve the university's core mission.
We are looking forward to returning to campus. We are looking forward to seeing you in the fall. We are looking forward to working together to produce and share knowledge that improves the world. We are looking forward to changing the lives of our students in the classroom. We are looking forward to working together to write the next chapter in UC Davis' history.
Information for UC Davis Health
For UCDH faculty, staff and students, compliance with the vaccine policy will be required as of September 1. The due date for unvaccinated employees to complete the survey to determine upcoming compliance with the vaccine mandate was Wednesday, August 11. If there are any who still have not done so, there is a link available in the Coronavirus Resource Center page of the Insider for a general survey form that can be used.
As indicated in the Update for Supervisors and Managers dated August 9, 2021, the grid outlining the requirements for meetings, events, and work situations, sorted by vaccination status, is now available in the Insider’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
Unvaccinated employees will be required no later than September 1 to participate in COVID-19 testing twice weekly. Additional details will be provided through the update emails as soon as they become available.
Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect you and the people around you from COVID-19. Because this is so important, the University of California has issued a systemwide vaccine mandate. To comply with the mandate, all students, academics, and staff need to provide proof of being vaccinated or secure an approved exception by September 8 for the Davis campus (or September 1, as noted above, for UC Davis Health).
If you are fully vaccinated, then please tell us. If you work on the Davis campus, you can verify your vaccine status in Health-e-Messaging in one of two ways:
- If you were vaccinated in California, then you can sign an authorization form to provide access to your vaccine status via the California Immunization Registry database.
- If you were vaccinated inside or outside of California, then you can self-report your vaccine information by logging into Health-e-Messaging and clicking on the button labeled “Enter my COVID-19 Vaccine Information.” Enter your vaccine type and date(s) and upload front and back images of your vaccine card.
If you are not vaccinated, then you need to get fully vaccinated, or you need to seek and secure an approved exception. If you need help scheduling a vaccine appointment, go to the COVID-19 Vaccine Program page of the Campus Ready website. Please note that your family members can be vaccinated through our partnership with Healthy Davis Together.
Unvaccinated individuals with a documented exception are required to get tested for COVID-19 every four days, and this will continue throughout the fall term. Unvaccinated individuals are also required to wear a face covering outdoors when in crowded places. Starting September 20, fully vaccinated individuals will be required to undergo asymptomatic COVID-19 testing once every 14 days. Everyone (regardless of vaccination status) is required to wear face coverings when indoors or when riding mass transit.
Currently, 64% of the Davis campus and 79% of UC Davis Health are fully vaccinated. Our sincere hope is that everyone will comply with the mandate by getting fully vaccinated since vaccination establishes the foundation upon which all of us can move forward together. Failure to comply with policy—either by getting vaccinated or securing an authorized exception—means that you will not be allowed on campus or in a university facility or office. Vaccination rates and other data are available on our COVID-19 Dashboard on the Campus Ready website.
Complete information, including details relevant to international students, is available in the FAQs of the COVID-19 Vaccine Program page. You may also watch a recording of the recent vaccine mandate webinar that addressed implications of the UC vaccine policy for students and employees. The UC Office of the President has also published FAQs about the mandate for students and employees.
Fall instruction will be in person with normal classroom occupancy. In addition to the vaccine mandate, all attendees (including instructors) will be required to wear a face covering in instructional settings per public health guidelines. We are actively pursuing a variety of solutions to help ensure that instructors can be heard through their face covering, and, to the extent possible, accommodate students who need to see an instructor’s or interpreter’s mouth.
The residential, in-person experience is integral to a UC Davis education. We are committed to offering that experience when it can be done in a manner that meets public health guidelines and in conjunction with the health mitigation strategies mentioned above. We recognize that some of you may be concerned that we are not continuing with remote instruction; however, given mandated vaccination and face coverings, as well as other public health measures, in-person instruction can be offered in a manner that is extremely low risk.
We anticipate that there will be a small number of courses offered remotely or as hybrid courses, but students, instructors and academic student employees should expect to participate largely or solely in person. If public health guidelines change at any time during fall due to COVID-19 or wildfire smoke conditions, we will notify the campus that we are temporarily moving to remote instruction.
Medical or ADA Accommodations
Individuals with personal health issues who cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine should seek a medical exception to the vaccine mandate as soon as possible. As stated earlier, the deadline to comply with the mandate is September 1 for UC Davis Health and September 8 for all of UC Davis. Details about how to secure a medical exception are on the Campus Ready website.
Students who have other medical reasons affecting their ability to be present on campus in the fall should contact the Student Disability Center to discuss possible accommodations. Visit the Student Disability Center webpage for information on the accommodation request process.
Instructors with disabilities or personal health issues that would potentially impact their return to campus in the fall should contact Disability Management Services(DMS). Teaching assistants, readers, graduate student researchers and postdoctoral scholars may also contact DMS if they are experiencing a personal medical situation that would affect their ability to perform their responsibilities as an employee.
Other COVID-related Issues
In addition to the impact on someone’s personal health, many members of the UC Davis community are dealing with situations related to COVID-19 that are impacting people in their care, including children and parents.
Instructors (including graduate students working as Associates in__) seeking an exception from in-person instruction must submit the Request for Emergency Remote Fall 2021 Instruction form. The Committee for Adjustments and Alterations of Instruction for Fall 2021 will review requests on a rolling basis. Teaching assistants and readers seeking an exception should contact Graduate Studies.
Starting Monday, August 16, students who have questions about COVID-related policies, public health guidance or general concerns regarding their transition to campus can call the Aggie Info and Help Line. A service of the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, this new info line will have trained student staff to provide support for non-crisis questions and referrals to campus resources.
Since there will be very limited remote course offerings, it may be appropriate for some students to take a leave of absence for fall if circumstances related to COVID-19 impact their ability to attend class in person. More information about the Planned Educational Leave Program (PELP) is available on the University Registrar webpage. PELP has been expanded for undergraduate students to allow for up to three quarters of leave.
Wait times for processing visas have continued to decline in most countries, and consulates and embassies have worked hard to make their way through the backlog of visa requests. Given this progress and the late-September start date for our quarter programs, we anticipate that almost all students will be able to return to the U.S. and attend classes in person. That said, we will continue to monitor situations that may impact students from specific countries or particular academic programs. We will be prepared to implement other options if necessary.
As stated in the Vaccines section, international students who need information about getting vaccinated or self-sequestering upon arrival in the United States should refer to the Fall 2021 Planning page on the Services for International Students and Scholars website.
We remain on track to return to full, on-site research operations before the start of fall quarter. Details of each phase can be found in the Guidelines for UC Davis Research Ramp-up.
While we continue to recommend against all non-essential, university-sponsored travel (domestic and international), we recently updated our COVID-19 travel policy. Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to self-quarantine for five days upon return from international travel and to receive a negative COVID-19 test. Additionally, we will no longer require approval for domestic travel. All travelers should continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance before, during, and upon return from travel. Complete details of the travel policy are on the Global Affairs webpage.
For fall, we anticipate that people will be able to resume official university travel. At a minimum, all travelers will be expected to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance before, during, and upon return from travel. We know that some employees may be uncomfortable returning to regular travel due to a range of considerations; therefore, in most instances, supervisors will not be able to require employees to travel in fall.
If you are traveling on university business, you are still required to register your trip in advance of traveling. Please keep in mind that formal approval is still required for CDC level 3-4 countries. Unfortunately, many countries are falling back into those categories due to the surge of the delta variant. Failure to register your trip may result in travel expenses not being reimbursed. Information about how to register your trip is on the Global Affairs webpage.
Health and Safety Precautions
To reiterate, all students, academics and staff need to comply with the systemwide vaccine mandate by September 1 for UC Davis Health or by September 8 for the Davis campus by providing proof of being vaccinated or securing an approved exception. Please refer to the Vaccines section above for information about documenting your status. Individuals who have an approved vaccine exception will be required to undergo asymptomatic COVID-19 testing every four days. Starting September 20, fully vaccinated individuals will be required to undergo asymptomatic COVID-19 testing once every 14 days.
A face covering is currently required for everyone when indoors, regardless of vaccine status. We expect that this will continue for fall, including wearing a face covering in class for all attendees (students, instructors and teaching assistants). Consumption of food indoors is limited to designated dining areas and facilities. Removal of a face covering to consume food in other indoor locations is prohibited (classrooms, hallways, conference rooms, lobbies, etc). Guidance and updates to face covering requirements are on the Public Health Policies & Requirements page of the Campus Ready website.
Currently, the Daily Symptom Survey must be completed if you are entering a campus building, but we expect that the survey may not be required for entrance into most campus facilities in the fall. Instead, we will monitor compliance with required testing schedules. Failure to stay current with required testing will result in losing access to campus and university facilities. We will maintain an on-demand badging system for certain events or activities needing additional mitigation and compliance measures.
Return to Campus Workplace
Employees in many offices across campus have gradually begun returning to in-person work, and discussions between managers and employees about flexible work agreements continue. Resources for identifying when such arrangements are appropriate are available at the Workplace Reimagined website.
After September 1, we will ask supervisors and employees to document any long-term flexible arrangements. Unvaccinated employees with approved vaccine exceptions will be required to remain current with COVID testing every four days regardless of flexible work arrangements.
Building Ventilation and Filtration
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems cannot prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but they can help mitigate the risk of infection. We have taken steps to ensure that our HVAC systems are in proper working order, and when issues are identified, immediate action is taken.
Facilities Management installed higher rated air filters where feasible. In addition, they have, where allowable, increased the amount of outdoor air supplied to spaces and decreased the amount of re-circulated air. Building-specific information is available on the Facilities Management webpage.
While these improvements will help, it is important to remember that getting vaccinated and wearing a face covering are far more effective in preventing the spread of the virus. This is why we strongly advocate that everyone be vaccinated and why we are following state recommendations to require that everyone wear a face covering indoors.
All visitors to campus must follow the same set of personal protection practices required for students, academics, and staff. Currently, this means that visitors are required to complete the visitor version of the Daily Symptom Survey prior to entering facilities on campus. They are also required to wear a face covering indoors, regardless of vaccine status, and unvaccinated people must wear a face covering outdoors in crowded spaces.
For fall, we expect that the Daily Symptom Survey may not be required and that visitors will be able to participate in most campus events. However, we will maintain the visitor version of the Daily Symptom Survey. For large events in the fall, we may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or of being fully vaccinated, and completion of the Visitor Daily Symptom Survey. We will communicate those requirements on an event-by-event basis. The latest information about campus visitors is on the Campus Ready webpage.
Students, academics and staff may proceed with events, meetings, and activities as long as public health mitigation strategies are followed. Specific guidance is available at the Event Guidance page on the Campus Ready website. Please consult this webpage throughout your planning process to ensure compliance with all current guidelines.
As stated previously in this update, wearing a face covering will be required for everyone when indoors, regardless of vaccine status.
As always, the Campus Ready website remains your most up-to-date source of information about current campus operations and our plans for this fall.
The efforts of the Fall Planning Workgroup continue. If there are specific questions or issues that you would like us to consider, please enter them at the following portal: https://campusready.ucdavis.edu/fall2021.
Thank you for all you have done to help us get through these challenging times. I have been so proud of our Aggie community in how we have responded to these challenges, followed public health guidelines, and progressed in our mission of providing exceptional education, research, and service to the State of California and beyond. Go Ags!
All the best,
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor