August 18, 2022
Dear Southern Community,
I hope that you have had a relaxing and enjoyable summer and are feeling reinvigorated and energized as we approach the start of a new academic year.
As you are well aware, the last two years presented their share of obstacles, all of which our community surmounted admirably, thanks to a collective dedication to student success and compassion for our friends, neighbors and colleagues. As we look ahead, while challenges remain, there are also exciting opportunities for growth and renewal as well as the chance to chart a new course for Southern through a collaborative strategic planning process.
As we anticipate the start of the fall semester, we do so with the recognition that we must continue to be vigilant when it comes to protecting the health of our community. The COVID-19 virus is still present, as it has been in successive variants since early 2020, and is likely to be into the foreseeable future. And the emergence of the Monkeypox virus during recent weeks also calls for preventative public health measures.
While the current strain of COVID-19 remains contagious it is, in most cases, less virulent than its predecessors. As of last spring, therefore, our protocols shifted from pandemic response to disease prevention. Masking is now optional and physical distancing restrictions have been removed in all areas, including classrooms, lounges, cafeterias and conference rooms.
Because wearing masks is still an effective prevention strategy against the spread of the virus and other respiratory diseases, we fully support and expect all employees and students to respect those who choose to continue using them. Conversely, no employee has the authority to ask or require the use of masks by others. Please be respectful in all circumstances.
Masks will still be made available to students and employees at a number of campus locations, including the information desks in Buley Library and the Adanti Student Center.
While COVID-19 vaccines are no longer mandated for students or employees, individuals are encouraged to be vaccinated and to get booster shots: free on-campus clinics will be held in the fall once the anticipated second booster becomes available. In the meantime, I encourage you to keep up up-to-date with COVID- 19 vaccination recommendations and visit the COVID-19 information page at Student Health Services for more information.
Monkeypox is a virus related to smallpox virus – the symptoms are similar but it is milder and rarely fatal. Spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact, it has the potential for wide community spread, particularly in on-campus areas or activities such as residential housing and athletics, where we will be taking proactive measures. Everyday activities such as teaching and attending class remain extremely low-risk.
Since monkeypox remains a relatively new phenomenon for many of us, education on how the virus spreads and what you can do to protect yourself is vital. If we all know the facts and work together, we can help to prevent the virus’s spread and keep our community healthy.
I thank you in advance for your cooperation in these important matters and look forward to greeting our new and returning students with you as we begin the fall semester.