January 12, 2021
Dear Tulane Community:
The spring semester officially begins next week with the resumption of in-person classes. As was the case in the fall, planning for this semester was driven by the overriding goal of protecting the health of our academic family and our fellow New Orleanians. As our guide for this semester, we are relying on lessons learned last semester that made it possible for us to host in-person classes and on-ground operations while maintaining a positivity rate well below that of the city or state. Last semester’s experience, along with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, has provided us with hope for better days ahead.
One key takeaway from last semester was the power of early and frequent testing to reduce the spread of the virus. This semester, we will increase the frequency with which we test our students, faculty, staff and contract workers throughout the coming semester. Students living on-campus will be tested as many as three times a week, while faculty, staff and contract workers will be tested at least every two weeks. Prior to arriving in New Orleans, students will be required to receive a negative COVID-19 test and isolate/quarantine for 5 to 7 days before traveling. We have hired more COVID support personnel and enhanced our ability to isolate/quarantine positive cases and their close contacts. In addition, our campus remains closed to visitors. Residence hall visitation is also restricted during this time.
Our goal is to identify any and all COVID positive individuals through our aggressive asymptomatic testing program to limit the spread of cases. To that end, we are closely monitoring the rate of infection within the city of New Orleans, which like communities everywhere, is experiencing increased rates of infection and hospitalizations. To address the increasing number of COVID cases, the city of New Orleans entered a Modified Phase One period, with reduced capacity limits and gathering restrictions, beginning on Jan. 8. The phase will last for three weeks. These limits do not apply to classes and academic programs. Tulane will adhere to all the restrictions of this phase, which can be found here.
Given that we have faculty, students and staff from our three health and allied health schools on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 and with our ability to rapidly deploy vaccinations to a large New Orleans-area workforce, Tulane has been chosen by the Louisiana Department of Health as one of the first universities in the state to begin administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. In adherence to the state's COVID-19 immunization guidance, the first groups to receive the vaccine at Tulane will include faculty, staff and students in the Schools of Medicine, Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Social Work who work directly with members of the New Orleans community. First recipients will also include Campus Health staff who work directly with infected students and employees and their close contacts, as well as frontline food service and custodial/operations staff who engage directly with large numbers of students. Employees over 70 years of age are also eligible. As the largest private employer in New Orleans, allowing the university to participate in the distribution of the vaccine helps to make the entire community safer. We are committed to rapidly administering these vaccines and will be prepared to support vaccinations for more of those in the Tulane community and beyond as additional vaccines become available and the state expands eligibility.
These inoculations are a welcome milestone in our continued fight against COVID-19, an effort that has included researching new vaccines and treatments, caring for COVID-19 patients and operating one of the country’s most rigorous testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine programs. As welcome as the arrival of a vaccine is, everyone in the Tulane community, regardless of their vaccine status, will be required to continue to adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols, including social distancing, face coverings and good hand hygiene. This is absolutely necessary because it is not yet known whether people who have been vaccinated can still transmit the virus to others.
Even with vaccinations underway worldwide, the months ahead will continue to be challenging times for everyone in our society. The changing of the calendar from 2020 to 2021 did not end the need for the restrictions we have been living under as we strive to protect our own health and that of others. We should be energized by the knowledge that, while there is still a period ahead of us that will require discipline and sacrifice, it is a finite period with a foreseeable end. In the meantime, we will move forward together as a community, continually enhancing our commitment to offering a meaningful college experience and engaging in life-saving research and life-changing public service at one of the world’s greatest universities, in one of its most beautiful cities. We are very proud of how the entire Tulane community met the challenges in the fall, are delighted by your return to campus, and, with your continued dedication, look forward to an academically and personally rewarding spring semester.
Michael A. Fitts, President
Patrick Norton, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Robin Forman, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost