December 18, 2020
Dear Tulane Community:
We would like to once again acknowledge, with the deepest gratitude and admiration, the incredible efforts of the Tulane community in confronting the challenges of the recently completed fall semester. Without your hard work and adherence to safety protocols we would not have been able to complete an on-ground, in-person semester while also maintaining a positivity rate substantially lower than that of the city and state.
One of the biggest takeaways from the fall was the strong preference our students have for an in-person collegiate experience. On-ground operations also proved vital to our research and healthcare missions, which provided the best care for COVID-19 patients while seeking new vaccines and treatments. The importance of this effort was underscored, once again, this week when we announced a new 15-minute test our scientists developed using gene editing and smartphone technology.
As in the fall, our number one priority in returning to campus this spring will be the safety of the Tulane community and our neighbors throughout New Orleans. This means that our public health protocols and testing must begin before students even set foot on campus or come back to New Orleans. Just as we tested students prior to their departure from campus for final exams and winter recess, we are requiring all students to undergo COVID-19 testing shortly before returning to New Orleans. Students who do not have testing available in their hometown or cannot afford the cost of such tests should email CHTestResults@tulane.edu for assistance.
Once back in New Orleans, the first stop for on-campus students will be the Arrival Center, located at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Here students will receive COVID-19 testing before being allowed to return to their campus residences. Faculty, staff and off-campus students must also be tested at Tulane Testing Centers located on the uptown and downtown campuses before returning to the classroom or office.
An important change this spring will be the frequency with which we test students at the beginning of the semester. Students will be tested every other day the first few weeks of the semester – a period in which we saw a surge of cases in the fall. Our rigorous system of asymptomatic testing (we conducted more than 150,000 tests in the fall!) and our efforts in contact tracing and isolating/quarantining students made us a national leader. We were one of the few universities nationwide to employ these proven public health interventions that are fundamental to reducing COVID-19 transmission.
Among other precautions, no visitors will be allowed in student residences, from off-campus or other residence halls, during the first few weeks of the semester. While we have space prepared for isolating and quarantining students who test positive and their close contacts, per CDC guidelines, the quarantine and isolation time will be reduced to seven days following a negative test and no symptoms. We are also reducing the length of individual classes a bit and extending the time allowed for students to change classrooms in order to facilitate more physical distancing on campus. Students should review their schedules for any adjustments.
To ensure we do our utmost to protect the health of the New Orleans community, we will continue requiring that students wear masks, social distance and practice good hand hygiene wherever they are – on campus or off campus. To extend this protection even further, we have cancelled Spring Break, replacing it with Lagniappe Days – wellness breaks that will be distributed throughout the semester (Feb. 16, March 10 and 22; April 8 and 30). Although the city of New Orleans has cancelled Mardi Gras parades this year, Mardi Gras day (Feb. 16) will be a Lagniappe Day. However, we will have classes on Lundi Gras (Feb. 15) and it will not be university holiday. This will reduce travel, congregation and other behaviors that can increase the risk of an outbreak. In lieu of the Lundi Gras break, we will also add a second floating holiday that staff may use on that day or any other day, with supervisor approval, throughout the year.
In addition to Lagniappe Days, to support mental health and wellness we have partnered with YOU at College. This new app, which will be available to students, faculty and staff, will provide personalized support through this challenging time. This service will launch in February. In this same spirit, we are increasing our student programming throughout the spring semester to include more events that promote community, recreation and fun in a safe, socially distanced manner. One likely popular new student service will be the availability of takeout from The Commons.
With vaccinations underway across the country and world, there is new hope that we may be entering the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic. However, we know we have many more months of taking every measure we can to protect the health of ourselves and of others. This is the overriding priority of Tulane’s plan for a successful spring semester.
Perhaps no Winter Recess is more anticipated than the one that begins Monday. The Tulane community has certainly earned a break. We wish you and your family a safe, restful and healthy holiday season and New Year.
Michael A. Fitts, President
Patrick Norton, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Robin Forman, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost