With the national spike in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, we are adapting our plans for the start of the Spring 2022 semester. As eager as we all are to proceed with life as normal, we recognize that the high number of people who are testing positive with COVID-19 includes many of our students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Although those cases tend to be mild, omicron is highly transmissible, and those numbers are expected to stay high in the weeks ahead.
An Online Learning Start
As a result, for the first two weeks of the Spring semester, all courses will be offered entirely online. Residential students are still welcome to move into their residence halls later this month as scheduled, and we will provide dining and other campus support services.
This arrangement will give students the flexibility to return to campus, if that is what works best for you, your family, and your educational experience, but it also makes it possible for you to stay home a little longer during this surge if you prefer. We want to give you the time and flexibility to complete the booster requirement, ensure you have received a negative pre-return test while testing is not readily available, continue your education uninterrupted, and help us slow the spread of COVID-19.
By offering all instruction online for the first two weeks, our faculty and students will be able to participate in classes even if they have tested positive but feel well enough to attend.
In-person instruction will begin on Monday, Jan. 31. That is also the date by which members of the Loyola community will submit proof of their required COVID vaccine booster.
Professionals across the University in student service offices, such as the Academic Advising and Support Center (AASC), the Study, the Writing Center, and the Counseling Center, will be prepared to support you.
Offering Time and Flexibility
Loyola is your home, and you are most welcome here. Please do not feel you need to change your travel and move-in plans unless that works best for you, your health, and your family. It might be better for you to be here on the Evergreen campus. But if you test positive, you’re having trouble getting a test, or you would prefer to stay home, you can wait and move in before in-person classes begin at the end of the month. Our faculty are prepared to teach fully virtually, and I am grateful to them for being ready to do so.
Because all classes will be online, we will also be able to open classrooms and other spaces for you to attend virtual classes and study outside your residence hall spaces.
Residential students will receive more detailed information on their return from Student Life. Regardless of when you return to campus, all undergraduate students are required to provide negative test results through the Loyola Student Health Portal.
Additional COVID Protocols
The University will be implementing additional COVID protocols for at least the rest of the month:
- KN95 masks are strongly recommended. The omicron variant is extremely transmissible, and medical experts are recommending the use of KN95 masks to reduce the spread. We will distribute two KN95 masks to each student and employee. We strongly encourage you to acquire additional KN95 masks or, as a secondary option, wear both a cloth mask and a surgical mask. These masks will offer the best protection against transmission, and their use is recommended until further notice.
- Event attendance will be limited. Attendance at University events will be limited, and proof of vaccination will be required for those without exemptions granted by Loyola. The 5 p.m. Sunday Mass will be held in the Alumni Memorial Chapel beginning on Sunday, Jan. 16, with masking and social distancing guidelines in place. No catering (food or beverages) will be offered at campus events or meetings before Monday, Jan. 31. You can see the modifications on attendance at athletic events on the Greyhounds athletics website. The University reserves the right to adjust the events policy at any time based on the level of COVID transmission on campus and in Baltimore.
- Isolation/quarantine protocols may be amended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently changed the guidance around the length of isolation and quarantine, particularly for people who test positive but are asymptomatic and for close contacts. The University is awaiting forthcoming guidance from the CDC specifically for higher education institutions and consulting with the Baltimore City Health Department, as well as other medical experts. For the time being, we will continue with the full 10-day isolation for Loyola community members who test positive. Students testing positive and identified as close contacts should follow the guidance provided by Student Health Services.
This is not the way we wanted to begin the Spring semester, and certainly not the first news I wanted to share with you as your president. However, my Cabinet and I feel confident that this will position us to keep our community healthy and safe, while also offering you the opportunity to stay home a little longer and continue your studies—or come to campus. Balancing the physical and mental health of our students is critical, and we want to ensure you have a wonderful Loyola experience and continue your learning. We fully intend to begin classes in person on Monday, Jan. 31.
We have so much to look forward to during the Spring 2022 semester, and I hope we can consider this approach not as a step back but as a step forward. Together, we will make the most of this time.
Terrence M. Sawyer, J.D.