Dear URI Community,
To me, the start of a new year is very much a commencement: A new beginning filled with opportunity and possibility. As we ring in 2022 and prepare for another semester amidst this global pandemic, one thing has become evident, particularly since joining URI last summer: We are better together. In light of this, I want to share our approach to reopening campus for in-person learning.
First, thank you for your diligence and commitment to the safety of our community. We were fortunate to have relatively low COVID-19 cases and transmission rates on campus last semester, and that is certainly our hope this semester. We also recognize the very real fatigue around the pandemic and our constant need to evolve and adapt to changing guidelines and procedures. Since the beginning, your safety and well-being have been our top priority. Considering the current surge in cases across the state due to the Omicron variant, we want to remind you of the policies we have in place to protect our community.
Throughout the pandemic, we have relied on leading public health experts and our internal task force to develop our response and guidelines. It is clear that the Omicron variant will require us to maintain our vigilance and adhere to our indoor mask policy. To facilitate this mandate, we are securing KN95 masks, which will be available to the community in the coming weeks.
It is also evident, based on numerous emerging studies, that vaccinations and boosters are incredibly effective at preventing serious illness in those who contract COVID-19. As a reminder, we are requiring all eligible faculty, staff, and students to provide proof that they received their booster shots by the first day of classes, January 24. Those who are not yet eligible to receive the booster will have 30 days after eligibility to upload proof. We will offer vaccination clinics on campus on January 25 and February 1, and we will continue on-campus testing. We will also share updated information on testing and health and safety guidelines next week.
Campus and Classes
Given the exceptionally high vaccination rate on campus and with the addition of the booster requirement, we do not anticipate any significant changes to campus operations. We will continue to monitor the conditions across the state, and we will adjust as needed, but we expect to resume in-person learning with the first day of classes on Monday, January 24.
While we plan to resume normal University operations, we cannot overlook that many in our community may be impacted personally, given the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant. Just as we have over the past 22 months, we will work to ensure that faculty, staff, and students are accommodated where appropriate and possible in the event they become sick, have to care for a loved one, or need increased flexibility with their schedules. The pandemic has put significant strain on many aspects of our lives, and we understand the need to be agile and adaptable.
Finally, we want to ask all members of our community to follow the lead of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, a group that has been hit particularly hard over the past few years, and do our very best to be kind. Ensuring public safety is one very powerful tool we have in navigating this pandemic, but the other is working together to respect the real impact this has had on our mental health and well-being. Caring for one another is more important now than ever, and as a newcomer to the state and this community, I have seen firsthand and greatly appreciate your generosity.
Thank you for your perseverance and your patience. I look forward to seeing you on campus again soon and to all that this new year will bring.