Dear UVI Community:
I want to update you on our first week of experience with the "testing protocol." The University created opportunities for students to be tested on both campuses during Orientation Week and then extended it into the first week of classes. The good news is that out of the approximately 726 students tested only two students tested positive. The challenge is that only approximately 52% of all enrolled students compiled with this request. We presently do not hve data on how many of the untested students are vaccinated or unvaccinated. Even though the UVI Board of Trustees' policy exception only applied to unvaccinated students, our goal was to use the start of the semester as an opportunity to create a baseline that included all students. These compliance results indicate that we continue to struggle with getting our students to comply with COVID requirements.
In addition to the above, the COVID guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have changed since the Board adpoted the "testing protocol exception" in June. Presently, the CDC and our local Department of Health (DOH) only recommend testing for symptomatic individuals. They do not recommend general testing for asymptomatic individuals, especially in low-risk settings. In addition, the CDC guidelines do not necessitate mandatory mask wearing in classroom settings, which is what our policy requires for in-person class attendance. They do require it for the 10-day period after a person has tested positive.
Since UVI strives to be guided by the latest and best scientific information on COVID and other critical health matters, I am considering recommending to the Board that we suspend the mandatory testing for unvaccinated students to attend in-person classes, and that we shift mask wearing in class and other venues from required to "strongly recommended".
I do not want to request these changes without providing the Community with an opportunity to share your thoughts and concerns. If you have comments or suggestions that you want to share, please submit them to me by replying to this email. I would like to share this request with the Board by the end of the week, so please share your comments by Thursday, August 25th. If these changes are adopted, we will continue to encourage students to be vaccinated since this remains the best protection.
Thanks for your understanding and insights as we try to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of COVID.