Sept. 29, 2020

Dear UAF staff and faculty,

We are almost halfway through the fall 2020 semester, with Thanksgiving break fast approaching. The many efforts that faculty, staff and students have undertaken to keep everyone safe have paid off so far. Thank you! That said, there are still many unknowns ahead, and a continued need for vigilance, learning and adapting.

With safety at the front of all of our minds, it is important to think about how Thanksgiving break will play out. Thanksgiving break is late this year and is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 29, with finals starting just eight short days later.

Early in the summer, UAF committed to a full semester of class, with residency available through finals. In their current forms, the state travel mandate (PDF) and UA campus entry restrictions guidance (PDF) present some challenges for students or employees who may wish to travel out of state over Thanksgiving, particularly due to the lateness of the holiday this year. In particular, the mandate will not allow students who leave the state time to complete testing requirements (or 14 days of quarantine) prior to residence halls closing on Sunday, Dec. 13.

Although students who test positive will be allowed to serve out quarantine or isolation periods on campus, students who have to remain in campus housing may incur additional housing and dining costs beyond Dec. 13. Furthermore, if an out-of-state student tests positive on Dec. 13, for example, they may not be allowed to fly by the airlines and would therefore be required to remain in isolation on campus for 10 days or until cleared. In order to avoid end-of-semester quarantine/isolation, we will be encouraging students (in a separate message) to either stay on campus and not travel out of state for Thanksgiving, or explore the option of not returning to campus for the remaining week of class. Obviously, if students do choose to pursue the latter option, it will need to be a conversation between them and their faculty instructor as they would then need to complete the last week of class and final exams by distance.

Faculty are encouraged to have this conversation with students who are in face-to-face classes and, where possible, help students who need to travel out of state over Thanksgiving to remain at home after the break until the start of spring 2021.

On a separate note, inquiries have surfaced regarding who is a “close contact” and how “close contact” is defined. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a close contact is defined as “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”

You are a close contact if you were within 6 feet of a COVID-19-positive individual for 15 minutes or more.

You are not considered a “close contact” if
  • You were never in “close contact” with the COVID-19-positive individual
  • Your interactions were for less than 15 cumulative minutes
  • You maintained 6 feet or more of social distancing
Additionally, you are not a “close contact” by extension, or in other words, if you were in close contact with a close contact. This has been coming up in cases where a student has a family member who tests positive. In that case the student must quarantine, but the student’s close contacts do not need to quarantine.

The Operations Support Team (OST) has developed a COVID-19 information sheet for employees (PDF) to help define and provide additional information to supervisors, faculty and staff as we continue to navigate COVID-19. This information sheet is a living document and will continue to be updated as we learn more about COVID-19 and as CDC guidance is updated.

Thank you for creating a safe learning environment, and thank you for choosing UAF.

— Dan White, chancellor
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