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A Message from the President: COVID-19 Fall Semester Update

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August 12, 2021

Dear Members of the Villanova Community,

It is hard to believe we are quickly approaching the start of the 2021–22 academic year—a year that brings with it much anticipation for a return to normalcy, coupled with some apprehension as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve. As the new year approaches, I want to share a few updates and provide some reassurances, as you likely have many questions about what campus life will look like this coming year.

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone for their cooperation with the vaccine requirement. As of today, I am pleased to share that 93% of our community members are fully vaccinated (there is a small portion of our community that is not vaccinated due to an approved medical or religious accommodation). I anticipate that the percentage of fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff will continue to increase over the next several weeks. That information, along with other COVID-19 updates, will be communicated in the Community First emails, which will resume after the first week of classes. For our incoming students and parents, these weekly emails provide a brief snapshot for our community of the most recent and important items related to COVID-19 on campus.

The high vaccination rate on campus allows us to ease most of the mitigation measures from this past year, while still providing the safest possible environment for both the University and the surrounding communities. The following updates and policies were built around the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for higher education institutions with high percentages of vaccinated individuals and are tailored to Villanova’s Community First approach to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masking

  • Masks are not required outdoors
  • For fully vaccinated faculty, staff and students, masking indoors is optional.    
    • While no longer required for fully vaccinated individuals, all community members who feel more comfortable wearing a mask are encouraged to do so. 
    • Faculty may require vaccinated students to wear masks in their classes, laboratories or offices, and students and staff may ask the same of one another when meeting or traveling in groups (e.g., on the Villanova shuttle). I expect everyone to put Community First and be respectful of these decisions. The reasons why individuals may choose to wear a mask can vary widely, so I ask that you show kindness and respect in these situations. 
    • Regardless of vaccination status, all community members are expected to carry a mask with them at all times. 
  • Students, faculty and staff who are not fully vaccinated (those partially vaccinated and/or those who have an approved religious or medical accommodation) are required to wear masks inside campus buildings. The only exceptions are when these individuals are alone in a private office/space, in a personal residence hall room, or eating or drinking. 
  • All visitors to campus, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks inside campus buildings (except when eating and drinking) to help protect our community. This includes families who are on campus for Move-In and Orientation, August 18–22.
  • Given that vaccination rates in the local community are considerably lower than the 93% rate on campus, I urge everyone to mask when shopping, dining or otherwise interacting in the local community, for your protection and that of our neighbors in and around Villanova.

We will continue to monitor the most recent guidance from the CDC and local public health departments to adjust our masking policies as needed.

Surveillance and Diagnostic Testing

Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to participate in twice-weekly surveillance testing throughout the academic year. These community members will also need to quarantine and/or isolate at home if they have a positive COVID-19 test. Students living more than 300 miles away may be isolated or quarantined at Villanova or another location arranged by/coordinated through the University.

Diagnostic testing will continue to be available for students at the Student Health Center for the 2021–22 academic year. Any student, regardless of vaccination status, who experiences any COVID-19 symptoms should promptly contact the Student Health Center for evaluation and diagnostic testing. Any faculty or staff member who experiences these symptoms should stay home and reach out to their primary care provider for a COVID-19 test.

Contact Tracing 
Villanova will continue to contact trace any students, faculty and staff with a positive COVID-19 test result, whether through surveillance testing or diagnostic testing. Students, faculty and staff who are “close contacts” and who are fully vaccinated will not need to quarantine. Students, faculty and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate, regardless of vaccination status. Additional information about contact tracing and isolation/quarantine can be found on the Return to Campus webpage.

Capacity

All campus spaces—classrooms, labs, residence halls, dining spaces, Masses, offices, libraries, common spaces, administrative offices, etc.—will be at full capacity.

Classes and Academic Calendar

Classes will be taught in person and Villanova will observe its traditional fall/spring, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter breaks. The full 2021–22 academic calendar can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

Student Activities

The majority of student activities will take place without restrictions as we begin the Fall 2021 semester. We plan to provide many of the evening and weekend activities that students enjoyed last year, and portable chairs will once again be given to new students to encourage gathering together outdoors. It is my hope, especially given that half of our students have never experienced a normal fall semester on campus, that we can soon return to a more typical on-campus experience.

Events and Visitors to Campus

Events that include visitors will once again be permitted. Visitors are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated and, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks inside campus buildings (except when eating and drinking) and at any other time designated by the University. I also encourage our community to continue to be creative around the use of technology to facilitate virtual programs or speakers and to consider using outdoor spaces as appropriate.

I hope you are as excited about the coming year as I am. I know the past 18 months have been difficult on everyone, and I look forward to a time when the weight and uncertainty of it all is behind us. Finally, I am grateful for your cooperation with these measures and ask for your continued patience and flexibility over the coming weeks and months as we make adjustments based upon the most recent guidance. As always, the health and safety of our University community will be at the heart of our decision-making.

Sincerely,

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Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA
President