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Published February 12, 2021
The University of Wyoming is planning for a fall 2021 semester with more in-person experiences and fewer restrictions related to COVID-19, contingent upon vaccine availability and acceptance, along with continued downward trends in infection numbers.
With UW faculty and staff members, as well as students living in residence halls, slated to have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1c of the Wyoming Department of Health’s vaccination guidelines, university leaders are optimistic for a more traditional semester in the fall. Additionally, there are indications all students may have access to the vaccine by late summer.
“Much could change between now and the start of the fall semester, including transmission of new variants of the virus and other unforeseen developments. However, we see great reason for optimism that we’ll have much more of a pre-pandemic campus environment this fall,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “Of course, it all hinges on the university community and the state adhering to public health guidelines to continue bringing down infection numbers -- and, especially, receiving the vaccine as soon as possible. At this point, we’re not requiring faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated, but significant voluntary vaccination will be essential for our plan to work.”
Under the plan, UW faculty and staff members would need to have access to the vaccine at least six weeks ahead of the scheduled Aug. 23 start of the fall semester in order for the semester to proceed with face-to-face classes at maximum capacity, face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and the like. Additionally, relaxation of Wyoming Department of Health rules and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding gatherings and classroom capacity will be necessary. Vaccine efficacy and acceptance -- at this point, at least 70 percent of members of the UW community will need to be vaccinated to achieve necessary levels of immunity -- also will be taken into account, along with COVID-19 infection numbers.
University leaders expect to have enough information on those matters in early June to make a final determination on the approach to the fall semester.
UW is collaborating with Albany County Public Health and Ivinson Memorial Hospital to administer vaccines to county residents who are in categories 1-3 of the Phase 1b priority schedule in the Wyoming Department of Health’s distribution guidelines. It’s not yet known when Albany County will begin Phase 1c, but UW faculty and staff members, along with residence hall students, will fall under that phase. All students will be encouraged to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, based on their current locations.
As of Thursday, the total number of active COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees stood at 15 -- 11 students living off campus, two students living on campus and two employees living off campus. The university is administering a rigorous testing program this spring semester for those spending time on campus, with undergraduates being tested twice per week and faculty, staff and graduate students being tested once per week.
More information about UW’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions about testing and other COVID-19 issues may call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.