COVID-19 Campus Update from the President and Provost (8/5/2021)

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Dear campus community,

As we approach the 2021 Fall Semester, COVID-19 conditions continue to evolve in Southern Nevada and throughout the state. Based on our analysis of data from the pandemic to date, and with input from our own faculty experts, we anticipate a heightened risk of infection in the Las Vegas community during the next several weeks, probably beyond Labor Day. While this surge is similar to what we saw last summer, we now have more information about the virus and, importantly, access to a safe and effective vaccine.

Still, we know the whole situation can be exhausting and anxiety provoking. Like many of you, we had hoped this would be behind us but that’s not the case. It’s also unsettling and frustrating to realize that some of this is beyond our control, but there are measures we can take on our campuses – and as individuals – to reduce the risk.

The most effective thing we can call do is get vaccinated. Despite frequent communication and statewide incentive campaigns, vaccination rates in Nevada continue to lag behind the national average. If we want things to “return to normal,” then more people need to get vaccinated to reduce the spread of the virus. It’s as simple as that.

In an effort to bolster the vaccination rates and to lead by example, Nevada officials have announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for all state employees, including at universities. This applies to all full and part-time employees, contract employees, graduate assistants and student workers. The vaccine-or-test mandate goes into effect Aug. 15, and employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to take weekly COVID-19 PCR tests, and provide proof of testing and results. Employees will be responsible for the cost of the weekly testing, which can run from free at public testing sites to more than $100 at a commercial laboratory. Once we have further information from the state and NSHE, we will share details with you. In the meantime, we encourage you to read the state’s FAQ.

The vaccine mandate does not apply to students at this time, but the State Board of Health has scheduled an emergency meeting for next Tues., Aug. 10 and may discuss this issue. I know many of you have conveyed your feelings about this topic and we continue to include your feedback in our discussions with local and state officials.

Based on current conditions, here are other measures we’re taking for the 2021 Fall Semester:

Mask Mandate – As of July 30, students, employees, and members of the public, regardless of vaccine status, are required to wear a face covering while inside any building or structure on any UNLV campus or property. Face coverings must cover both the mouth and nose.

Contact Tracing – The School of Public Health will continue to support the UNLV campuses when positive cases are identified to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. We highly encourage students, faculty and staff who test positive to complete the voluntary online reporting form or provide consent to someone to submit it on your behalf.

Fall Semester Courses – Traditionally, UNLV has provided in-person instruction to 90 percent of courses with 10 percent offered online. Last spring, faculty was offered the opportunity to teach courses online for this fall, resulting in roughly double the amount. The current ratio for the fall is 80 percent of instruction in person and 20 percent online. We’re re-evaluating the feasibility and faculty interest in potentially offering more online or remote classes. Updates to the schedule should be completed shortly after August 10.

“Welcome Weeks” – The majority of outdoor activities will continue as scheduled. This includes the UNLV Creates “Watch Party” and Movie Night (Aug. 19), and Premier (Aug. 26). “Ask Me” booths will also be operating as normal the week of Aug. 23. The President's Barbecue will be rescheduled to mid-October as part of UNLV Family Day.

Since the pandemic began, UNLV’s first priority has been to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and to maintain the integrity of our academic mission. That’s still our focus.

Our challenge is to move forward while also recognizing the ongoing anxiety and frustration individuals have with all of this. We get it, and we hear you. We will continue to factor in all these variables when making decisions for the UNLV community.

Once more, vaccination is the solution to all of this. Please, ask a colleague, friend, or someone you know to get vaccinated. They’re not doing it just for themselves, but for the people they care about. For UNLV. For Southern Nevada. For our state.

Warm regards,

Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D.
President

Chris Heavey, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Provost