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December 30, 2021

Dear Loyola Students,

The hope of many scientists is that the fiercely contagious omicron variant of COVID may signal an end to the pandemic, just as a weaker strain of flu ended the last major pandemic in 1918. (Since then, the flu continues to be dangerous, but it does not shut us down.) We fervently pray that this is true of the omicron variant.

In the meantime, however, the variant is causing a massive national spike in cases, which will have already infected many of you reading this email. Even if the vast majority of those cases are minor, the surge is disrupting society, from canceled flights to NFL games that look like junior varsity. For the next several weeks, many of our students, faculty and staff will end up in isolation, even if their symptoms are (hopefully) quite mild. This makes it very difficult for us to function normally on campus during the surge and difficult for many of you to travel back.

Our medical and public health advisors estimate that the spike here in New Orleans may peak the week of January 10th, and hopefully decline as dramatically as it went up. For that reason, we are going to start our semester virtually, until at least January 31st.We cannot fully predict events ahead, but that is our best estimate of when we will be able to begin on-campus learning, which we are determined to do.

This includes undergraduate, graduate and law school classes. The only exceptions are graduate counseling clinical work and undergraduate nursing, which have clinical requirements difficult to delay and will begin on campus as planned. Those directors will be in touch right away.

Starting virtually allows the many students and faculty who will inevitably be stuck in isolation to continue academic functioning if they feel up to it. It allows you to decide when to return to campus, without a requirement that you travel during the peak of the surge. We will have basic campus functions available throughout January for those of you who do come back.  

For those of you living in the residence halls, we know that some of you rely on that housing or cannot afford to delay your return travel. You may return to campus housing on your original dates (though you must first produce a negative test before moving in). The risk of omicron exists across the country right now and we have no reason to believe that you will be at either more or less risk here on campus. But, during this spike, when many of you will face a positive test and isolation, home may prove far more comfortable.  

I want you to know that we are determined to go forward with on-campus classes as soon as we can. We will continue to mask, to keep spread out of the classroom – which worked even during the omicron surge we experienced in December. With booster shots, we can return to a level of vaccine protection much closer to what helped us do so well last fall. Remember that you must submit documentation of your booster in Medicat by January 10. If you will be unable to meet that deadline for reasons outlined in previous emails, please email covid@loyno.edu to let us know. That’s true for all on-campus students, including graduate and law. Also please remember to notify us in Medicat if you’ve recently had COVID, because that will also give us a sense of our collective immunity going forward. The point of these protocols is to maximize our ability to function in person, which is our priority. Please email us at covid@loyno.edu if you have any problems accessing the Medicat portal.

I cannot wait to see you in person on campus. As always, we will get through this together.  

Tania Tetlow
President

Vaccinate the Pack

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