Dear Students and Families:
Happy New Year! I hope that you are enjoying a restful break and your first days of 2022 are off to a healthy start. As promised in my email on December 22, I am writing with updated plans for the spring semester.
As students prepare to return to campus, COVID case counts are at their highest levels ever in Monmouth County, and the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly. Our high vaccination rates, coupled with our indoor masking and social distance requirements, have enabled our community to arrive safely at this point in the academic year. Our goal through these updated plans is to limit the spread of the virus early in the semester in order to preserve an in-person experience throughout the remainder of the academic year.
During the break, the senior leadership team and I have been following closely the rapidly changing COVID situation, including frequent conversations with the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission. In consultation with our faculty, staff, and student leadership groups, we feel confident that we have developed reasonable plans, as noted in further detail below, to ensure a safe start to the spring semester and to protect the overall health of our University community.
Remote Learning Status: For an emergency period of Tuesday, January 18 through Monday, January 24, all classes will migrate to an online format. Public health officials have indicated that the omicron variant will likely peak sometime in mid-January, followed by a decline in positive cases and transmission rate. By shifting to emergency remote learning for this discrete period, we hope to mitigate the risk of exposure among our community. It is our intent to return to in-person instruction, but that may be subject to a variety of circumstances. If you do not want to participate in remote instruction, you should follow the University’s add-drop procedure.
On-Campus Resident Student Testing: Move-in will begin on Friday, January 14. Due to the particularly high risk of community spread in the residence halls, all on-campus resident students planning to move in between January 14 and January 16 must provide evidence upon arrival of a negative test taken within 72 hours of move-in, or proof of a positive test occurring between 90 and 10 days prior to move-in. The University will not accept the results of a self-administered test.
If you are unable to schedule a test at home, the University will offer on-campus testing in the Magill Commons Testing Center. The testing center will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On-campus resident students who plan on moving in between January 14 and 17 can utilize the testing center, provided they do so between January 10 and 12. On-campus resident students who are not able to obtain a test before January 12 – either from a community site or from the University – will only be allowed to move in on Monday, January 17, and will be required to pool test prior to checking in to their residence hall.
Any student with a positive test result in the days prior to move-in will be required to isolate at home. Similarly, any student testing positive through the January 17 pool testing must return home to isolate if they live within 150 miles of campus.
Please expect more detailed information from the Office of Residential Life, including available move-in times, in the very near future.
Ongoing Testing: Testing will continue as during the fall semester for any symptomatic and close contact individuals. Testing will also continue on a regular basis for any individuals who are not fully vaccinated, including members of our community who have been vaccinated for more than five months with Pfizer or Moderna, or for more than two months with J&J, and have not received by March 1, 2022 the appropriate booster dose for their vaccination series.
Boosters: Because of waning immunity considerations for individuals who were fully vaccinated more than five months ago with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or more than two months ago with the J&J vaccine, the University is requiring every member of the Monmouth community (i.e., students, faculty, staff) to get the appropriate booster dose for their initial vaccination series.
To help make the vaccine and booster readily available to our community, we will be hosting our next on-campus clinic on Thursday, January 27, and the Monmouth County Health Department will be offering walk-in clinics throughout the county during the month of January.
All students must provide up-to-date information on their vaccination status through the Health Portal by March 1. Please report your vaccination information as soon as possible to avoid any problems that may be caused by waiting until the last minute.
Any unvaccinated member of our community, including those who do not receive the appropriate booster dose for their initial vaccination series, will be required to comply with the heightened health and safety protocols put into place last semester, including regular surveillance testing.
Health and Safety Protocols
Masking: The University’s indoor masking requirement remains in place until further notice. Under this requirement, all members of the Monmouth University community and guests to our campus – regardless of vaccination status – are required to wear masks indoors, except when actively eating or drinking and when in their private residence hall room. Masks must be worn properly – with mouth and nose fully covered – at all times indoors.
Social Distancing: The University will continue, when possible, to establish and enforce a social distancing requirement of three feet wherever any in-person instruction is taking place on campus (e.g., classroom, lab, teaching space, etc.). Individual faculty and staff members may also require visitors to their respective offices to adhere to the three-feet social distance requirement.
Isolation/Quarantine: Members of the Monmouth University community who test positive or qualify as close contacts necessitating a quarantine period must follow the prevailing CDC and NJDOH guidelines on isolation and quarantine periods. More information on these guidelines is forthcoming from the Division of Student Life.
Please be on the lookout for additional information on these plans from VP Mary Anne Nagy before the spring semester begins. In the meantime, if you have specific questions on our testing and booster requirements, or other health and safety protocols, please reach out to Spring2022@monmouth.edu. This remains a fluid situation, and we will continue to closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 on our campus community. We will be in touch with any adjustments to our current plans as the semester progresses.
Thanks to our individual and collective efforts this year, we have been able to keep our case count low and return to our fully in-person residential student experience. As we navigate record-breaking COVID levels and a difficult flu season predicted by medical experts, these protocols will help to ensure the continued protection of our community. Our commitment is to the health and safety of our community and the integrity of our students’ education. Thank you for your ongoing understanding and cooperation.
Dr. Patrick F. Leahy