COVID-19 Update: Continued Protocol, Vaccinations, and Phased Return to Normal Operation

Update from President Houston Davis to students, faculty, and staff

I hope that you all have returned from spring break rested and ready for the sprint to the finish of the spring semester. Following up on my email to you from March 18, 2021, I wanted to reiterate several points and provide an update on steps that the university will take as we return to normal operations for the fall semester.

Face Coverings: As expected, the Governor has lifted the “statewide mask mandate” and provided an allowance that many organizations may still choose to require face coverings. For instance, he noted in his press event yesterday that state government facilities will continue to require face coverings when social distancing is problematic or not possible. UCA will maintain our face-covering requirement through the end of the spring semester, and we expect that they will be worn inside university facilities such as classrooms, residence halls, offices, the Student Center, Torreyson Library, HPER, and cafeteria. With social distancing standards now being reduced from six to three feet, you will notice that spaces around campus are gradually being reset and utilized in ways that reflect the more relaxed social distancing guidelines. However, we will stay the course on face coverings and other COVID protocol as we ensure that we finish the spring strong and position our university for a return to normal operations in August.

Vaccinations: One of our reasons for maintaining our face coverings through the spring semester is to allow the remaining students to obtain their COVID vaccinations. The Governor made a huge announcement yesterday regarding vaccine eligibility as everyone age 16 and above is now eligible for the vaccine. This means that our entire student body can now join those from phases 1A, 1B, and 1C that have already received the vaccine. The state has a Vaccine Call Line (1-800-985-6030) to learn about vaccine appointments in your area. In addition to that information, we will continue to pass along notices of vaccine clinics being offered by local health partners and also continue to work with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to make a mass vaccination clinic available on campus. Watch your email regularly as we will pass along links to verified clinics and known opportunities. I encourage you to take advantage of vaccine appointments as they become available.

It is a remarkable statement that by the end of February all UCA employees, including student workers and graduate assistants, had opportunities to receive the vaccination and now by the end of April we will be able to say the same about our entire student body. UCA is far ahead of most universities nationally in access to vaccines which places us significantly further than peer institutions toward having normal operations in the fall semester.

Phased Return to Normal Operations: As previously stated, UCA will stay the course with our COVID protocols and requirements through the end of the spring semester. This includes continuing the allowance of limited and approved remote work assignments through May 16th.  Beginning May 17th, the university will join State of Arkansas employees in returning to work on-site and no longer having alternative, remote work assignments due to the pandemic. The university will continue to follow ADH COVID-19 guidance and our university protocol for operations. Additionally, departments may choose to use the guidelines adopted in 2019 for flexible schedules through the summer months. As we continue to obtain guidance from the State of Arkansas and ADH, additional details regarding phases of return to normal operations will be made available. Faculty and staff should especially continue to watch your email for more operational details in the coming days.

As noted in my email prior to spring break, the accelerated schedule of vaccine availability is the variable that allows us to be confident as we look toward the summer and fall. We will continue to manage the pandemic in a careful and responsible manner and know that our campus community will continue to rise to the challenge and show care for one another. Thank you for all that you have done to ensure our success and demonstrate your commitment to our UCA family at every step along the way.