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AUGUST 24, 2021: Important to monitor our COVID website for updates

To the University Community,

With the beginning of classes this week, I anticipate an increase in the number of questions and concerns regarding our COVID-19 policies and campus practices. While changes in the status of the virus may not be as dynamic as they were last year, it is important that every member of our campus community continue to follow our established protocols and stay informed of our operational plans, in the event there are changes.

Throughout our state, local governments and business have chosen to address this ongoing pandemic with their own unique responses.  As a result, you may experience rules and policies off-campus that are not consistent with ours, creating further confusion.  However, on our campus, we remain committed to adhering to the best practices, as recommended by the CDC and our own campus, local and state health officials. 

For the past 18 months, we have made every effort to provide the information needed to assure the health and safety of entire campus community. At times, the situation and recommendations changed so quickly that the information we provided one day was modified 24 hours later. That has, at times, created confusion and heightened concerns. While we regret those occasions, the rapid changes we experienced made that unavoidable. Moving forward, I am asking our communications staff to explore ways to assure a clearer, more streamlined means of passing along these changes to our community.

In the meantime, there are a couple of issues I want to be sure we are all clear on. For students who have been in direct contact with a COVID positive individual, on or off campus; or who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms there is free access to COVID-19 testing through Student Health Services. Faculty and staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should contact their primary care provider for assessment and possible COVID-19 testing.  

Anyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated, who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19, or are in isolation or in quarantine due to pending test results must NOT come to campus, until they have been cleared by our Student Health Services or their personal health care provider. Specific information regarding quarantine and isolation may be found on the University’s COVID-19 page www.mtsu.edu/coronavirus.

While these situations are rather clear and easy to understand, others aren’t quite as black and white and we are going to have to accept some ambiguity in these cases.  An example of this involves notifications and contact tracing.  Last year, when activities were more limited, it was relatively easy to trace contacts for those who had tested positive for COVID-19.  Today, with everyone being more mobile and more activities underway, that task has become difficult and we are no longer in a position to provide full contact tracing services. This will require everyone to accept individual responsibility should they test positive.  Students should report any positive test to our Student Health Services, who will determine the need for contact tracing and the best path forward.  Faculty and staff should consult with their personal physician for advice on who to notify and how to assist with notifying any needed contacts.

As we are seeing with the Delta variant, both vaccinated and unvaccinated can become infected and transmit the virus to others. It is clear however that vaccinated individuals are far less likely to experience severe symptoms or transmit the virus to others.  That is why I continue to urge you to consider vaccination if you have not done so.  Also, mask wearing is proven to be an effective deterrent when in close proximity to others. Members of our University community and campus guests, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks inside University facilities. Exclusions to this include private offices, dorm rooms, and individual study rooms, as well as in dining areas, while seated and eating. 

With the continued support of our entire Blue Raider family, I am confident we will successfully navigate our way through this ongoing epidemic. Your commitment to each other is extremely gratifying and I look forward to brighter days ahead. 

Sincerely,
Sidney A. McPhee
President

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