Jan. 12, 2022

Dear UNLV community,

Welcome back! As always, this spring semester offers great opportunities to learn, grow, and expand our minds. I know we will thrive, even amid this time of challenges – because we are UNLV Strong!

Yet getting to this point has not been easy for any of us. As the pandemic continues, it means that there are fewer and fewer of us who have not been touched by this horrible virus. There is a growing number who either have caught the virus, know someone who has caught it, or even lost family or friends. I know we are all tired of dealing with the pandemic, but we need to persevere.

At UNLV, we are doing our best to maintain a safe campus while preserving a college experience that maximizes the talents of our incredible faculty and staff and allows our students the interactions that they’ll remember for a lifetime. Similar to last fall, about 60 percent of our of course instruction will be delivered in person and about 40 percent will be delivered remotely.

Based on our own faculty experts and public health officials, we don’t anticipate the latest surge (Omicron) of the virus to begin to subside until the latter part of February or even the first part of March.

Even though the vaccine mandate for college students has expired, the original emergency regulation motivated students to get vaccinated. Our latest figures indicate that more than 90 percent of our students in any particular classroom this spring will be vaccinated against COVID-19, a significant increase over the fall semester. Additionally, more than 96 percent of UNLV faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, and the employee vaccine mandate remains in effect.

Still, we ask everyone to remember some approaches that will allow each of us to continue to flourish in these challenging times. Please try to:

1. Continue being flexible and patient.

2. Be even more compassionate to your fellow person.

3. Remember that masks remain required inside of all campus buildings, regardless of vaccine status. (Masks are not required if you are alone, in an office, or outside.)

4. Because high quality masks do a better job of protecting the wearer and preventing the spread of COVID-19, the university has secured a large number of KN95 masks for individuals who work on campus or for students taking classes in person. Departments may place orders through the Business Affairs Administration portal, and students may pick up masks at the Information Desk in the Student Union.

We continue to encourage everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to complete the online reporting form on our Coronavirus webpage. In addition to helping us understand the spread of the virus among the campus community, our COVID-19 investigation team follows up on every single report to provide guidance to the individual and take the steps necessary to protect campus from further spread

On campus events will continue at the discretion of the event organizer and the respective supervisor. However, precautions should be taken to minimize risk for in person events, especially if food or drinks are involved. Domestic and international travel will continue to be approved through the existing processes but the minimization of risk should be considered as part of the approval process.

Even in the best of times, we know the challenges that many of you must juggle every day. The recent announcement from the Clark County School District to provide a five-day pause is but another example. The COVID-19 virus makes things more difficult, but we will work together to reach the end of the academic year safely. Although the current trends are cause for concern, we continue to be confident that we can operate the campus safely, especially if people get their booster shots, wear high quality masks, and avoid high risk activities.

Finally, when you need help, it’s important to reach out and ask for it. We have some of the best support services around, so please make sure to avail yourself of them when needed -- whether it concerns physical or mental health, or anything else. Also, understand our healthcare staff and HR team members are in high demand at this time, so be patient and kind when seeking services. In response to the high demand for the Student Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we are in the process of hiring additional staff to support student needs.

Thank you for being part of a university community that values every person. It is easy to think you don't matter but every one of you does!

Here's to a great Spring 2022 semester.

Warm regards,

Keith E. Whitfield