Jan. 3, 2022
Dear Lynx Community,
2021 was a hard year. And not just because of all the challenges from COVID. Most recently, my heart aches for the victims of the tragic shootings in Denver and Lakewood, as well as those who were impacted last week by the most destructive fire in state history. With all of these difficult times, I hope everyone gives each other grace and takes care of themselves and their families.
COVID, and specifically the Omicron variant, continues to spread rapidly through the United States. The Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Group, led by Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, just today said that it expects COVID-19 hospital demand to increase sharply in the days ahead and that reported case numbers will likely exceed prior peaks within two weeks. Based on these projections and everything we know now, I want to share the following decisions, which I believe give us our best shot to keep our community healthy and achieve the long-term goal of having a successful semester.
It’s critical that we take every measure possible to slow the spread of COVID. Omicron is spreading more rapidly than prior variants and has the potential to overwhelm the supply of hospital beds around the state. Not only are we concerned about the health impacts, but also the cascading absenteeism that may impact operations across the region, including in K-12 schools and transportation. We can’t just think about CU Denver—we need to be considerate community members and do our part to help our neighbors and the medical system.
As such, after consulting with public health experts and my Cabinet, we decided that requiring boosters would be a critical way we can keep ourselves healthy, stem the spread of new cases, and reduce hospitalization rates. I’m pleased that more than half of our employees have received booster shots so far. Over the next week, you’ll receive further details from the Lynx Together team on how to comply. But for now, if you haven’t received your booster shot yet, please start making plans. You can schedule your free booster shot at the Health Center at Auraria or through many other providers in the metro Denver area. Going forward, CU Denver will consider our campus community members “fully vaccinated” if they have received the original dose(s) of the COVID vaccine plus a booster.
Limiting in-person contact for the first two weeks of the semester is the safest decision we can make at this time. The current models for Colorado show our Omicron cases peaking in mid-January before coming back down. I know so many of us are eager to resume on-campus learning, and based on what we know right now, we believe we can accomplish this by the end of the month.
Faculty will lead classes remotely from Jan. 18 to 28. I fully understand that this move to two weeks of remote instruction is not ideal and will create additional work for our students, faculty, and staff. We notified everyone of this possibility before the holiday break and wanted to share our final decision with as much notice as possible. Certain courses, such as labs and studios, can continue in-person with our existing safety requirements, including face coverings. However, if a student feels safer not coming to campus, they cannot be penalized for this decision. As such, I would highly encourage faculty to move the in-person components of labs and studios to later this semester. Resources to support faculty are available on the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning website. You can book appointments now with CETL staff for further guidance.
We have every intention of going back to in-person instruction starting Jan. 31 and continuing in that format until the end of the spring semester. Of course, we will stay connected with public health officials and make the best decisions in the name of safety if COVID case counts continue to rise.
Please join me on Jan. 11 from 10-11 a.m. for the “Community Conversations: COVID” virtual discussion. Please register here. I’ll be joined by several campus leaders, including Chris Puckett and Dean Pamela Jansma, co-chairs of the Lynx Together Task Force. They’ll provide greater detail on our decision-making, review the latest COVID data, explain our safety protocols, and take your questions.
In closing, I’m just as tired of COVID as anyone else. But after what we expect to be a particularly challenging January, I do feel hopeful about 2022. Some medical experts have already said that the worst with the Omicron variant should be over by February. And almost two years into this pandemic, we have learned how to manage a temporary shift to virtual learning until we can be together on campus safely. I’m particularly proud of the way our campus community has responded to these COVID challenges. We have smart safety protocols in place to be as careful as possible. I ask for your cooperation, again, so we can all get through this together. Thank you for your support, perseverance, and collaboration.
Lynx, we can do this. Together.