Dear Members of the University Community,
In my column for the latest edition of CatholicU magazine, I described what it was like to be the President of Catholic University as we prepared to reopen campus last fall. The image that came to mind was Christopher Columbus “setting sail into the great unknown of the Atlantic Ocean.”
But it wasn’t just me at the helm peering into the foggy mist. The entire world found itself in the same boat, navigating its way around “a highly contagious disease we had not seen before and knew little about. No one could foresee how it would play out.”
What got us safely through the last 18 months was our commitment to implement a wide range of measures that enable us to keep our community safe, while also striving to be as open as was safely possible.
In a couple of weeks we will take our biggest step yet toward being as open as possible. We are only able to do this due to the high rate of voluntary vaccination in our community. As of this morning we have a vaccination rate of more than 86% among the faculty, staff, and enrolled students who have reported (85% for students and 86% for faculty and staff). Our response rate is at 95%, and we continue to reach out to non-reporting individuals to reach full compliance with the reporting mandate.
Despite the high rate of vaccination on our campus, the Delta variant has emerged as a concern. The current variant is more contagious than the previous ones. Individuals who are fully vaccinated are less likely to become infected but can become infected and spread the infection to others. They experience much milder symptoms and are much less likely to require hospitalization.
I want to emphasize to every person in this community: our ability to open this fall and remain open depends on our shared commitment to keep Catholic University safe and healthy. For this reason we have drafted a set of Shared Community Responsibilities that we expect every person on campus to follow, regardless of vaccination status. For those who have not chosen vaccination, please consider the many benefits of vaccination for yourself and your community.
Below you will find the elements of our plan to keep Catholic University safe this year. It will evolve as our situation evolves. But our resolve will not change. We will continue to face this pandemic together, and we won’t let it derail our greater ambitions as individuals and as a community.
Catholic University's Plan for Fall 2021
As Open As Possible
The University will return to in-person learning at full capacity this fall. While the definition of “normal” has changed a lot during the pandemic, there are some aspects of University life that will return to pre-pandemic normal.
- The semester will begin as scheduled in the Academic Calendar. We do not anticipate the need to move classes online after Thanksgiving.
- In-person instruction on campus will be the normal mode of instruction.
- Residence halls will reopen with double occupancy rooms. The University will provide rooms for students who need to quarantine and isolate.
- Our event spaces will begin to hold gatherings.
- Cardinal Athletics will resume training, practice, and competition in accordance with NCAA and Landmark Conference guidance.
- Catholic University Shuttle Services will return to full operation.
- Food service will reopen.
We have consistently emphasized that the priority of Catholic University is the safety of our community. That has not changed. The following strategies are in place to mitigate the risk of either catching or passing on COVID-19 to others.
COVID-19 Vaccination: All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination is the most effective protection against getting COVID-19 and against infecting others. Catholic University will work with Ascension Health to facilitate student vaccinations.
Face Coverings: Catholic University implemented a mask mandate on campus beginning July 31. All faculty, staff, and students need to wear a mask whenever they are in a shared space indoors. People who work alone in an office will not need to wear a mask, unless someone enters for a conversation or a meeting. Exceptions include when actively eating or drinking. Students are required to wear a mask in the public areas of the residence halls, but not within their assigned residential spaces.
Testing: We will test all residential students, regardless of vaccination status, approximately 3-5 days after arrival.
Any person who experiences COVID-19 symptoms should get a COVID-19 test or consult with a medical professional to determine whether testing is necessary. Students are eligible for symptomatic testing at the Catholic University testing center and should contact Student Health Services to make an appointment.
Shared Community Responsibilities: The University articulated a set of Shared Community Responsibilities that are aimed at keeping Catholic University safe this year.
Daily Health Checker: The University will reinstate the Daily Health Checker.
Physical Distancing: Try to maintain an appropriate social distance when you can, both indoors and out. In outside settings where socially distancing is not possible, mask up.
Basic hygiene: Before all else, remember to wash your hands, cover your nose/mouth when sneezing or coughing, and keep all high-touch surfaces clean or sanitized. This behavior is encouraged for all members of the community regardless of vaccination status.
Positive Test Reporting/Quarantine: Unvaccinated students will need to arrive early in order to quarantine. The University will continue to follow established protocols to isolate and quarantine community members who are sick with COVID-19 or are a close contact of someone who is currently infected.
Employees are encouraged to self-report to their immediate supervisor. The supervisor should send a report to CUA-CoronaResponse@CUA.EDU. The email address is monitored by the Senior Director for Environmental Health, Safety, & Risk Management, the Director of Student Health Services, and the Chief Human Resources Officer. Employee Relations will contact the supervisor to review the situation and develop the most appropriate response.
Positive Case Notification: The University will follow established protocols to notify the various segments of our community (and emergency contacts where appropriate) of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Case information that does not compromise confidentiality will be posted on the University’s COVID-19 Resources website.
COVID-19 Dashboard: We will continue to track cases of COVID-19 on campus and make that information available to our community.
Variants: Increases in COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated Catholic University community members and/or within the District, Maryland, and Virginia may cause DC DOH to re-institute, intensify, or implement certain prevention strategies. The University will notify the community of any changes in guidance.
Cleaning: An emphasis on sanitizing high-touch areas across the University has become standard operating procedure. Most cleaning will be done during the overnight hours.
- Academic and administrative facilities, including classrooms, will be cleaned and sanitized nightly. Offices will be cleaned weekly.
- Residential Facilities will be cleaned and sanitized daily. Residential rooms, suites and apartments are supplied with a disinfectant cleaning solution and cloth.
- Portable germicidal ultraviolet (GUV) units that emit UVC lights are in use at various locations throughout the campus (athletics, health services, a few academic units such as labs and performance spaces).
- Wall-mounted and stanchion hand sanitizers are everywhere on campus.
- We have put disinfectant stations in academic, administrative, special use facilities, and residential common kitchens. The supplies are to be shared among the area/unit’s occupants. Return cleaning supplies to the station when you are done using them.
Indoor Air Quality: Facilities staff evaluated and updated indoor air quality conditions of all campus buildings with the support of consulting architects and engineers. As a result of this study, we made air ventilation and filtration modifications in numerous locations across campus. We installed new filters at the highest grade possible for our equipment, mounted air handling equipment, and deployed portable air filtration units.
Facilities will continue routine maintenance protocols.
Sneeze Guards: Sneeze guards and barriers will remain in place across campus as requested. Offices can request additional barriers or changes to existing barriers through the University work-order system.
Please check the Facilities web page for updates and contact information.
Catholic University has the capability to pivot to remote instruction if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in the District.
Catholic University will continue to collaborate with Mayor Muriel Bowser and her team as we all work together to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Catholic University depends on the actions of each one of its members to keep this University safe. The more we all do our part, the more able we will be to open our doors even further in 2022. Let’s work together to finally kick COVID-19 out of our lives.