To the university community:
I hope this message finds you well and I thank you for the successful completion of a most unusual academic year. There is good news as we now focus on and prepare for the coming academic year. Our nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program is yielding significant positive results in preventing infections and the spread of the virus. It appears we have, indeed, turned a corner in the fight against the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University System of Georgia (USG) last week issued new guidance that impacts university operations, now and for the fall semester. The CDC guidance addressed the relative importance of face coverings for individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the USG guidance addressed issues related to returning to more normal campus operations. This message serves to update you on how new guidance will affect our operations and plans for the summer and fall.
Vaccines and Face Coverings
CDC’s updated guidance that “(f)ully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance” is a breakthrough event in the COVID-19 pandemic. The data and science demonstrate convincingly COVID-19 vaccines in use are safe and extremely effective. Vaccination against COVID-19, therefore, is an essential tool for safely returning our university to normal operations.
Many members of our university community have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and the number increases each day. Anyone who has not yet been vaccinated is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines are readily available throughout the Atlanta Metro area, and the university continues to offer free vaccinations on the Atlanta Campus. If you prefer to be vaccinated at Georgia State, you can sign up here. Testing for COVID-19 also continues to be available for faculty, staff and students.
Beginning immediately, fully vaccinated individuals can use campus facilities, attend classes and participate in campus activities without wearing a mask or, in most cases, physically distancing. For summer semester, we will continue to honor the schedules and classroom assignments that have already been set. Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to continue socially distancing from others when possible and wear a face covering while inside university facilities.
Return to Normal Campus Operations
Some areas of university operations already have begun the transition back to normal operations, and we are preparing for essentially normal operations across all our campuses beginning July 1. Following USG guidance, the Alternative Work Arrangements that were implemented for the pandemic will end no later than June 30.
University employees should prepare to transition back to their pre-COVID-19 work arrangements no later than July 1. Supervisors will be communicating plans for their respective areas in the near future. In the meantime, our facilities team is hard at work refreshing our campuses to ensure our facilities will provide safe and healthy work environments as we return to normal operations.
The future will not be exactly like the past. In anticipation of the new world of work as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, Georgia State has updated its policy on flexible remote work. The policy seeks to provide the opportunity for worksite flexibility at the same time the university’s mission and strong sense of community remain our highest priorities. Individuals who wish to enter a flexible remote work arrangement for the fall semester or coming academic year are encouraged to submit their requests to their supervisors in the near future. While requests can be made at any time, for full consideration, requests should be submitted to supervisors no later than June 30. This will provide supervisors with sufficient time to determine the extent to which, and how, requests can be accommodated without compromising mission and community.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have faced unparalleled challenges and high degrees of uncertainty. Finally, we are starting to see a greater sense of normalcy ahead of us. Many of us, perhaps all of us, have lost family and friends to COVID-19. We will never forget all we have experienced, and at the same time we must go on with our lives and our work. What we do at Georgia State is too important to be stopped by a virus or any other obstacle we may confront.
Our Georgia State faculty and staff have gone to great lengths to provide students with a high-quality and safe learning environment throughout the pandemic, and we have done the very best we possibly could under the circumstances. At the same time, we look forward with great anticipation to the days, weeks and months ahead when the excitement, energy and vibrancy of on-campus, in-person activities return in full to our campuses.
I expect these latest updates in guidance from the CDC and USG will generate many questions as we prepare to return to normal operations on our campuses. Many of those questions will be addressed by supervisors, and others will necessitate further updates in communications, like this one, to the entire Georgia State community.
I am deeply grateful to our entire university community—faculty, staff and students—for all you have done to see one another and Georgia State through the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic is not yet over, with safe and effective vaccines we have a path forward. Throughout the pandemic you have never lost focus on the importance of Georgia State’s commitment to education, scholarship, research and engagement, and your commitment to working as safely and effectively as possible in the face of a pandemic has been unwavering. Georgia State’s best days are ahead of us, and once again you have proven a challenge of historic proportions cannot deter our university from being a vitally important institution in advancing a more educated Georgia.