As Duquesne looks forward to the fall 2021 semester and to resuming normal operations in teaching, research, community engagement and other activities, the University expects all members of the campus community to keep the safety and wellbeing of others as the top priority. One of the most effective strategies to combat COVID-19 is to increase the number of people receiving vaccinations.

As a result, the University strongly urges every Duquesne employee-faculty and staff alike-to acquire the COVID-19 vaccine.

"The COVID-19 vaccinations currently authorized by the FDA are safe and have been proven to be extremely effective in preventing transmission of the virus and significantly mitigating its effects in the rare instances where a vaccinated individual contracts COVID-19," says Dr. Paul Larson, medical director for Duquesne University Health Services and physician at UPMC St. Margaret. "With vaccines widely available and proven to be effective, we recommend that all individuals over age 12 and without health conditions that prevent it become fully vaccinated."

Vaccines are readily available through local and regional pharmacies and health care providers. Earlier in June, Duquesne announced that the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for all Duquesne University students intending to be present in-person for classes and all other campus activities in fall 2021. This is consistent with existing University policies that require students to be vaccinated for a wide range of diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella. Students have the ability to request exceptions in a process detailed in the Student Handbook.

In addition to the requirement for students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, maximizing the number of employees who are vaccinated will enable the University to lift nearly all of the campus-wide COVID-19 related restrictions currently in place for vaccinated individuals, including masking and physical distancing, and return to a more typical mode of operating in which classes will be able to meet, in-person meetings and events can resume, and dining options can resume normal operation.

To ensure full vaccination prior to returning to normal work operations and the start of the fall semester, it will be necessary for employees to start their vaccination process no later than July 1, 2021. Starting then will provide them enough time to acquire both doses (if using a two-dose vaccine) and to wait for the necessary two weeks to reach full immunity prior to resuming their presence on campus.

Based on recent survey results, over 90 percent of all University employees have been fully vaccinated, with another 2 percent indicating plans to obtain the vaccine. The rate of vaccination among University employees well exceeds the threshold experts recommend for loosening nearly all COVID-19-related protections. Achieving the highest possible vaccination rate among employees is the best mechanism for maximizing the safety and wellbeing of the entire campus community. As a measure to encourage vaccination and recognize those who already have become fully vaccinated, the University will provide every full-time non-unionized employee an extra paid day off upon receipt of proof of vaccination to be used before June 30, 2022. The vaccination must be complete by Sept. 30, 2021 and more details on the process will follow, including specifics on how to provide confidential proof of vaccination.

Employees who are not fully vaccinated will be subject to ongoing requirements, such as following all CDC guidance, continuing to social distance and wearing masks indoors. All associated costs arising out of or relating to COVID-19 exposure or infection, such as for testing, quarantine and/or isolation and medical treatment, will be the employee's sole responsibility, unless such costs are a part of a disability accommodation. Employees who do not get vaccinated assume all risk and responsibility for any harm or damages to themselves or others incurred from contracting COVID-19.

"Our community rallied last year in extraordinary circumstances, and we learned how best practices can keep one another safe," says Duquesne President Ken Gormley. "The best practice now is to acquire the vaccine so that we can gather for the classes, events and everyday moments that are part of the Duquesne experience. I look forward to our collective effort to have a great return to normal this fall."

Employees should make every effort to complete their vaccination before returning to work. For those who are unable to obtain a vaccine, the University is working to acquire a limited number of vaccines to provide by appointment. Information on making appointments will be provided soon.

The University community's collective adherence to COVID-19 protocols this year resulted in great success in limiting the spread of disease on campus and in keeping the campus community safe. The University's leadership team is confident that employees' getting the vaccine will do the same for the upcoming academic year.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,000 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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June 16, 2021