The following COVID Safety update was sent to all University students and parents.
Dear Duquesne University students and parents,
As we look enter the New Year, I hope you're enjoying this holiday time with your families. As I noted in my last message, we're keeping close watch on how COVID issues continue to evolve.
Because of the impact of the recent Omicron surge and resulting disruption in travel and other services-and after consultation with my leadership team, the president of the Student Government Association and the president of the Faculty Senate-I've concluded that the process of returning to campus should be slightly modified in order to ensure the smooth return and safety of all students, particularly those who live at a distance. To help ensure such a smooth and safe process, the University is providing a ten-day flexible arrival period, details of which are included below. We are taking this step to deal with changing conditions and to ensure all students have time and flexibility to do what is necessary to return to campus safely.
It's important to emphasize that we're still starting the semester on time. In order to redouble our commitment to the wellbeing of our students, we will put enhanced safety precautions in place, including increased testing, mandatory indoor mask requirements and clear vaccine policy rules to guide the campus until the Omicron surge subsides. As part of this enhanced safety commitment:
- All students will need to have a negative COVID-test 48 hours prior to arrival on campus.
- Students who test positive should stay home for at least 5 days, per CDC guidance, until they test negative. If students are symptomatic, they also should stay home until they secure a negative test.
- All students will need to be tested shortly after they arrive on campus.
The intent of these measures is to level-set conditions when we return, and to monitor the presence of COVID from the starting point of the new semester. That way, we'll be better able to take reasonable safety measures throughout the semester, as conditions may demand. It is also critical that those who are eligible to get a booster do so, as soon as that is possible.
I've been in frequent contact with the Allegheny County Health Department and other public officials to stay aware of conditions. I've also met regularly with my University leadership team and the chair of Duquesne's Board of Directors. Thanks to the high level of vigilance and preparedness, that began last year, I'm confident we're on firm footing.
Because the Omicron variant is so contagious, even though reports have shown its symptoms tend to be more mild, we will not be surprised if we see a bump in numbers of positive cases on our campus and, indeed, at every college campus. Some will be breakthrough cases, as we are seeing nationwide. Fortunately, with a highly vaccinated campus population, additional testing resources, and tools we now have at our collective disposal to deal with COVID, we are strongly positioned to adapt to these evolving circumstances. We will level-set our campus community and then be positioned to move forward with the semester seamlessly.
I wish to emphasize that we've made no other changes to the spring semester calendar apart from the flexible arrival period. Specifically, spring break, graduation, and other plans remain the same unless circumstances change, which we do not anticipate happening.
I look forward to seeing all of our students back on campus in the weeks ahead, for a successful and positive spring 2022 semester. In the meantime, I wish you and your families a restful conclusion of the holiday break and a very Happy New Year!
KEY ARRIVAL INFORMATION FOR SPRING 2022 SEMESTER
The University has the tools and protocols to fight COVID and keep our community safe, including masking requirements, access to vaccines and boosters, a very high vaccination rate (and overall policy compliance rate), and strong testing protocols. Duquesne has navigated COVID challenges well so far, thanks to the cooperation and collaboration of our students, faculty, and staff.
During the spring semester, it is highly possible the CDC will update the definition of "fully vaccinated" to include requiring a booster shot in addition to the initial doses of vaccine. Therefore, we urge all students to get a booster as soon as they are eligible to receive one. If students are unable to receive a booster while at home during the break, they should be able to do so once on campus. Boosters will be readily available through Duquesne's Center for Pharmacy Care.
The University is asking all students who will be on campus for any purpose-including classes, club and organization meetings, using facilities like Gumberg Library or the Power Center, etc.-to obtain a negative COVID test before initial return to campus.
ALL resident students must observe the following arrival testing protocols:
- Obtain proof of a negative COVID test 48 hours prior to arrival on campus. In a few days, students will receive instructions for registering that
they tested negative.
- For those resident students who cannot obtain a test where they live, testing will be available on campus. Students should sign up in advance for this on-arrival test.
- After arrival, all students will be strongly encouraged to obtain another test on campus within
one week so that the University has accurate data on initial prevalence of COVID.
- The University's testing program will be operating regularly.
- In addition, an Allegheny County mobile testing unit will be on campus on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, to conduct COVID testing for those who sign up in advance. We strongly encourage students intending to use this free service to register in advance. The University is working to have the mobile testing unit visit on other dates as well.
- Use the University's sign-up portal to reserve a space.
- If a student tests positive for COVID, even if the student is asymptomatic, the individual must isolate for 5 days (per new CDC guidelines). Although not required, it is advised to get a negative COVID test before returning to classes and campus activities.
All students living off-campus must also obtain proof of a negative COVID test prior to initial arrival on campus.
- If the test is positive, even if the student is asymptomatic, the individual must isolate for 5 days (per new CDC guidelines). Although not required, it is advised to get a negative COVID test before returning to classes and campus activities.
ALL unvaccinated students, including students who have a documented exemption from the vaccine requirement, still must comply with a testing requirement. Failure to do so is a violation of policy and a student conduct matter.
Flexible Arrival Period
To provide students time and space to deal with the new complications created by the
Omicron surge, which experts hope will subside soon, the University will allow for
a Flexible Arrival Period for all students.
For the first ten days of the semester-from Wednesday, January 12, through Saturday, January 22,-all courses (with the exception of certain clinical courses, etc.) will be provided in hybrid format, allowing students to attend either in-person or virtually, as their circumstances may dictate.
Students living on campus may return to their residences at any point after move-in starts on Sunday, January 9. Room and board charges will remain the same for the semester regardless of when a student elects to return. Students who wish to delay arrival for any reason may move in at any time until the last day of the Flexible Arrival Period on January 22.
On Monday, January 24, all courses will return to their normal in-person mode of delivery.
* Undergraduate students enrolled in the School of Nursing are to return to campus as scheduled by Jan. 12. Undergraduate nursing students who are not able to return to campus by Jan.12 due to travel restrictions, a known COVID exposure (for unvaccinated students only) or testing positive for COVID, must contact each of their professors. Hyflex learning will be available for these special circumstances until Jan. 22. Students who are not in clinical this semester are also expected to return to campus on January 12 to attend classes that are part of their professional program.
New Guidelines for Isolation and Quarantine
The CDC has adjusted guidelines and reduced quarantine time for fully vaccinated and boosted individuals who are asymptomatic but have been exposed to COVID.
According to CDC guidelines, a person who has been fully vaccinated and shows no symptoms of COVID-19 does not need to quarantine if they have been exposed to someone with COVID. However, fully vaccinated close contacts should:
- Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until a negative test result. Duquesne's mask policies cover this requirement.
- Get tested and isolate immediately if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Individuals who are not fully vaccinated and have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 still should quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure to that person. Individuals who need to isolate will be asked to do so either at home, per current Duquesne policy, or in dedicated University space, depending on their circumstances.
Other Safety Measures
As was previously communicated, Duquesne's indoor masking policy will continue into the spring semester. The University will continue operating a robust clinic for vaccine boosters and also plans to start a randomized testing program. The program will test samples of students and faculty, vaccinated and not, to remain vigilant and better detect asymptomatic breakthrough cases. All individuals who are not fully vaccinated will be required to get tested weekly.
Duquesne continues to follow Allegheny County Health Department and CDC guidance, and will keep the campus community informed of all relevant updates.
Fortunately, Duquesne students, faculty and staff have been leaders in this region in terms of establishing and following prudent protocols that have allowed the University to successfully navigate challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. The University remains optimistic that continued progress will be made toward fully normalized operations later in the spring 2022 semester.