Feb. 23, 2021

Dear UAF staff and faculty,

In recent conversations with interim President Pitney, we have discussed plans for fall 2021 and our post-pandemic operations. How we operate at UAF is a function of how the president defines the UA phase as all three universities operate in this context. It is our expectation that UA will be in Phase D or E by the start of the fall 2021 semester. As such, we should plan accordingly. A post-pandemic normal would mean face-to-face courses, full occupancy of residence halls, and many or most employees back on campus. Of course, with the known unknowns, like coronavirus variants, and the unknown unknowns, we will be prepared to revert to more conservative phases if conditions warrant.

Operations in largely post-pandemic phases will look different in many ways and the same in others. We will need to have new pandemic safety protocols and other measures that allow us to create safer and more robust learning and work environments for our students, staff and faculty. While most classes that were face to face may return to being so, for many it may make sense to offer them in a hybrid or online model. We need to think creatively and do what makes sense for our courses and students. For this reason we have referred to our new operating condition as a post-pandemic normal. It is not back to what we were but forward to how we have evolved as a more efficient university.

Additionally, as we plan and implement our post-pandemic operations for employees, the UA system office is already working on back-to-work guidelines. These guidelines will address allowing some positions to continue working from home, to adopt alternative work schedules, or to return to our standard, in-person service hours. The pandemic has helped us recognize that some of our functions and duties can be done remotely, differently and more efficiently. Still, some require a personal touch and face-to-face interaction.

With all of these changes and our move into post-pandemic operations, we understand that the pandemic is not over and that we will need checkpoints along the way. Checkpoints will allow us to roll things back as needed and ensure our campus community safety, seamless processes, and transitional learning environment for our students who choose face-to-face courses. We may well still have a mask requirement and social distancing in some cases, but these will be based on the conditions as they present themselves.

Last week in the COVID-19 column, I discussed the State of Alaska's emergency declaration expiring and the UA system office actively working on updating the UA COVID-19 guidance. On Friday, Feb. 19, the UA system office updated the travel guidance, critical infrastructure work guidance, and COVID-19 tracking and response guidance to align with the State of Alaska Health Advisory 2. They are still working on updating the campus entry restrictions guidance that was last updated on Jan. 27. At this time, UAF will still require that anyone needing to access campus, including employees, students and visitors, do one of the following:

Take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to arrival in Alaska, and practice strict social distancing for five (5) days after arrival with a negative test result, or;
  1. If a state resident, quarantine for 14 days prior to returning to work on site — no test is required, or;
  2. If travel outside of the state is less than three (3) days, no test is required.
In December, UAF announced that we had adopted the 10-day "close contact" quarantine option that the CDC has provided as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine.

The "close contact" option we have adopted is as follows: Quarantine for 10 days, release on day 11 if you have no COVID-19 symptoms. The 10-day guidance is for anyone who is considered a "close contact" with a COVID-19-positive individual. The CDC has also developed guidelines for a seven-day quarantine. This potential alternative is available at UAF only to a relatively small number of groups, such as our emergency services providers, and only with the Operations Support Team's approval.

As planning moves forward I will continue to provide updates in my Tuesday COVID-19 messages. Thanks for all you have done to make UAF a safe place to work and learn.

Thank you for choosing UAF.

— Dan White, chancellor

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