April 15, 2021
Dear UT Community,
Yesterday, UT Health Austin administered its 100,000th vaccine shot. There are many people to thank as we mark this significant milestone. First and foremost are our staff and faculty members from across UT who have worked tirelessly for months to coordinate our public health efforts. Their incredible work resulted in our becoming one of the first institutions in the nation to begin administering vaccines in December. In addition to UTHA’s 100,000 shots, the UT Proactive Community Testing program has now administered over 100,000 COVID-19 tests. These efforts have enabled us to identify and isolate more than 1,000 members of the campus community who were positive but asymptomatic.
To all involved — from health care and emergency preparedness professionals to our communication teams, support staff and shuttle volunteers — thank you! It is because of your efforts that we now begin to plan for a return to the life on campus that we miss and cherish.
In July, we hope to hit another major milestone: By then, we expect to have been able to offer vaccinations to every member of the campus community. To that end, we are planning for a near-normal fall semester, including some key components:
Research Restart. We just released a plan to get us back to full-capacity on-campus research operations in July. To begin that step-down process, we will move from Research Level 3 to Level 2 on Monday, April 19.
Reclaiming the residential college experience. When it comes to our teaching mission, we anticipate a timeline slightly longer than the one we envision for research activities. As our interim provost, Dan Jaffe, recently outlined, that means both following public health science and curating the best possible learning environment for our students this fall. In short, that will mean many more in-person classes and the phased opening of libraries, museums, galleries and performance spaces.
Employees returning to campus, in a phased manner. As stated in my previous fall planning email,we expect that employees will physically return to campus gradually, beginning with the days and at the frequency that their units and roles require.
Expect more changes in the coming weeks, including updates to masking and distancing guidance, revisions to travel policies, the resumption of some in-person events, and overall greater density on campus.
We’re committed to a gradual, orderly, well-communicated transition, accompanied by clear guidance. Decisions will ultimately be made by the university’s Executive Committee in collaboration with public health experts, deans, HR teams, and the university’s COVID Health and Wellness committee – just as we have made decisions throughout the pandemic.
We will share campus-wide guidance as soon as it becomes available with deans and unit leaders, who in turn will develop implementation plans and communicate them to employees.
We encourage all to get vaccinated. Finally, for those students, faculty and staff who have not yet been vaccinated, I encourage you to do so — doing so doesn’t only protect you from COVID-19, it is an act that also protects others.
Without a doubt, we’ll all greet these changes with our own personal mix of excitement and anxiety. But during the past 14 months, UT has ably demonstrated the resiliency and adaptability needed to navigate the pandemic as effectively as anyone. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m immensely proud of our efforts. We’ll move forward with the same qualities that have gotten us this far. To be clear, I fully appreciate the fact that the pandemic is not over yet. We will remain on guard and ready to reinstate additional restrictions if needed. But increasingly, it looks like we are through the worst. And I firmly believe that the talents, energies and capacities that have brought us to this stage are going to power this incredible university community into a very bright future.