January 7, 2022
Dear Cougar Community,
Welcome back and Happy New Year. I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. In the days since the end of the fall term, we’ve continued to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant, which now accounts for 95% of all COVID-19 infections in the U.S. While Omicron is believed to be less severe, its infection rate is still a cause for serious concern.
After careful consideration, we have decided to implement a soft opening of classes, similar to the fall 2021 semester, for the first two weeks of the spring semester (Jan. 18-30). Our campus and offices, particularly student facing services, will remain open. Residence halls are open and new residents will move in as planned. Classes will start on schedule, albeit in a mixed modality.
We were all hoping to have a more normal start of the new semester but clearly that is not the case. I want to express my appreciation for your patience as we make these adjustments during this rapidly changing environment. While it may feel like déjà vu from last January, there has been much progress during the past year: vaccines, boosters and new treatments are widely available; schools are open; and the city is not in a lock-down.
Spring Classes: Classes will start as scheduled, however professors may change the format during the first two weeks. The mixed format approach during the soft opening will provide opportunities for face-to-face and online options for professors and students. Provost Short will follow up with more specific instructions to faculty and students in another communication. Please direct specific questions and concerns about course delivery to her office at Provost@uh.edu.
Temporary Remote Work/Sick Leave Guidelines: We understand that some faculty and staff may have health conditions associated with COVID-19 and its various variants. Guidelines for faculty and staff continue to be in place. Please visit HR’s website for information regarding the details of these guidelines. Guidelines for faculty are available at the Provost’s website here. I am asking supervisors and faculty to be flexible and compassionate as they manage your units and/or classrooms.
Personal Responsibility: I urge you to follow every necessary precaution to keep yourself and everyone around you safe and healthy. We have the tools to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, and they begin with vaccination and boosters. Please read available information, consult with your healthcare provider and get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, consider getting your booster shot. To protect yourself, wear face covering in public indoor settings.
Protocols to follow in case of symptoms : CDC recommends that you isolate for 5 days following a positive test result or experiencing COVID symptoms. Since these guidelines have been changing frequently, please continue to refer to our COVID-19 website on a regular basis for updated information about UH’s continuing response to the pandemic, including UH’s reporting requirements, should you receive a COVID-19 diagnosis, positive test result, or are exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Health and Safety on Campus : The campus maintenance staff will continue to follow cleaning protocols on campus. Free COVID-19 testing is available at the on-campus kiosk. Vaccinations are widely available in the city. We will once again launch an aggressive campaign to promote vaccines, face coverings and testing.
Let me close by saying that I appreciate your resilience in successfully finishing the fall semester in the midst of a very difficult Delta variant surge. I am confident that together we can navigate this new Omicron challenge and meet our obligation to the students and the community.
Wishing you the gifts of health and happiness,