Last Updated on July 30, 2021 5:28 pm
Friday, July 30, 2021
Campus activity is ramping up as students will soon move into residence halls and classes will begin for the fall semester on Aug. 16. The latest operations update was sent to campus yesterday. If you haven’t yet read it, I encourage you to do so, as it includes details about COVID safety protocols for fall semester, including links for students, faculty and staff to upload their vaccine status. Having data about the vaccine status of our university community will be key to our ability to make informed safety policy and protocol decisions, and I greatly appreciate the nearly 30% of faculty and staff who have, since yesterday, attested their vaccine status.As the fall semester approaches and gets underway, additional guidance and more frequent communications will be sent to campus.
Yesterday, Governor Cooper announced a new Executive Order, EO224, and updated the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) guidance.
- The EO224 requirements do not apply to UNC institutions or employees.
- The NCDHHS guidance, which isn’t mandated under the Executive Order, is in line with the latest guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and recommends various COVID-19 protocols for both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. We are reviewing these carefully.
- Gov. Cooper also confirmed that all face covering requirements under the previous Executive Order EO220 will expire today at 5 p.m. and will not be renewed.
The Vice Chancellors and I meet daily to review the latest guidance and discuss the university's COVID response and recovery efforts. The safety of the university community is our utmost priority and we continue to take the global pandemic very seriously.
- Since the start of the pandemic, we have relied on data and guidance from the UNC System as well as public health guidance from the CDC and state and local public health agencies to inform our decisions in regard to COVID-19 safety policies and protocols. The updated university guidance we shared yesterday is in line with the latest federal, state and local public guidance.
- After 18 months of actively responding to COVID-19, we are acutely aware that guidance necessarily must change as circumstances change and new information is available. We review all information, guidance and directives carefully to determine how they apply to App State. We will continue to make data-driven decisions based on the latest public health recommendations.
- A team led by Emergency Management Director Jason Marshburn and Dr. Alex Howard, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Wellness and Prevention Services, meets regularly to review the latest data, guidance and university resources, and makes recommendations to the Vice Chancellors and me. The Vice Chancellors and I review these recommendations each week, in addition to our daily meetings to review and discuss the latest information available from the UNC System, as well as federal, state and local public health agencies.
In a few weeks we will begin a new academic year with the benefit of 18 months of data, guidance that has been developed by the best medical experts in the world and the most powerful tool available that has been proven to stop the severity and the spread of COVID-19 and its variants — a plentiful supply of vaccine.
- The COVID vaccine is key to a successful fall semester. If you haven’t yet had the vaccine, please do so now. On campus, faculty, staff and students can make an appointment at Student Health Service by calling 828-262-3100.
- The CDC is recommending vaccinated individuals wear face coverings in areas with “substantial” or “high” rates of transmission. Watauga County is currently an area of “moderate” transmission. We are closely monitoring our county transmission rates, and will post the county’s transmission status on the university’s homepage, as well as the university’s coronavirus website. Face coverings will be available for classrooms, and in academic departments and public areas throughout campus.
- The enhanced sanitation procedures and rigorous cleaning schedules put in place last year will continue. Please use the hand sanitizer stations across campus and the sanitizing wipes provided in each classroom.
The last few weeks have also brought important discussions and momentous occasions.
- Today, we will cut the ribbon on Laurel Creek Residence Hall — the third new hall to open on our campus in the last year! I am proud of the team that completed these buildings on time and under budget despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, and am pleased that our perseverance also helped contribute to the local economy during especially challenging economic times. These buildings, and the many other projects in progress on our campus, represent the future of App State. At a time when the focus is very much on the day to day, we also have our sights on the horizon — anticipating the needs of the Appalachian Community and planning for generations of Mountaineers to come.
- Team Sunergy, App State’s solar vehicle team, is in Topeka, KS, representing App State in an international competition in which they will race the App State solar car on the Heartland Motorsports Park track in the Formula Sun Grand Prix, a three-day track race that begins today. Next week, they will join the American Solar Challenge, a five-day, cross-country road race that spans nearly 1,000 miles from Missouri to New Mexico. We are so proud of our team, which has persevered through the pandemic to represent App State at these competitions for the fourth time, inspiring others and testing the limits of what can be accomplished with the power of the sun.
- Last week, at the meetings of the UNC System Board of Governors, I represented App State as a member of the Committee on Budget and Finance. During the full board meeting, President Hans reinforced the value of System institutions’ collaboration with community colleges, and also recognized App State as a Literacy Innovation Leader. The rich heritage of our institution has always been focused on student learning, and we are proud to be part of these important UNC System initiatives, which will create profound and lasting positive effects for the future of North Carolina.
Although the last year and a half has taken a toll on all of us, we have demonstrated our ability to persevere and come together as a community to problem-solve under the most difficult of circumstances. I sincerely thank every faculty and staff member for their hard work to ensure our university is ready to provide a meaningful experience for all Mountaineers this fall. We all look forward to welcoming our students back to campus soon!
Sheri Everts, Chancellor