Dr. Jim Henderson, President and CEO of the University of Louisiana System, announced Fall 2021 Guiding Principles for returning students. These universities include Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and The University of New Orleans.
Dr. Henderson said in his message, “The scientific community continues to provide us with tools and understanding to win the battle against this evolving threat, and it is incumbent upon us, collectively and individually, to act. As such, we have issued revised systemic guidelines to inform university COVID-19 mitigation efforts and policy.”
He said all planning conducted, decisions made, and actions were taken by UL System institutions, collectively and individually, should adhere to the hierarchy of principles:
Dr. Henderson advised that the expert guidance of national, state, and local health officials will continue to inform their work, and recommendations of the CDC are particularly informative as it serves their guidepost. He said the Delta variant viral load is roughly 1,000 times higher than the original strain which makes it twice as transmissible. In accordance with the new recommendations by the governor, masks will be required in classrooms and all indoor public spaces at UL System universities in areas of high or substantial transmission which he said is currently all of Louisiana. This mandate is for both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
“Vaccination remains the most effective tool in combating the virus. The vaccines remain highly effective in protecting the vaccinated from severe disease, hospitalization, and death even against the highly transmissible Delta variant. Symptomatic breakthrough infection remains uncommon; however, data indicate the vaccinated who are infected may transmit the virus at similar levels to the unvaccinated. This is further support for universal masking in our facilities,” Dr. Henderson said. He said they will continue to provide easy access to vaccination in university communities and are also providing informational and educational programming through multiple outlets to ensure communities have an accurate, science-informed understanding of vaccine safety and efficacy.
They have also petitioned the Louisiana Department of Health to add COVID-19 vaccination to the required immunization schedules at the nine-member institutions upon FDA approval of one or more of the vaccines. “We expect that FDA approval in the coming weeks, and all universities will communicate the new requirement to continuing and entering students now for planning purposes,” he said.
The guiding principles state Students, faculty, and staff shall wear masks in the classroom and indoor public spaces. Additional masking guidance may be implemented at the university as warranted by local conditions. Institutions should continue to educate and inform students, faculty, and staff regarding the vaccine and widespread vaccination in communities is a public health imperative. Click here to read the full “Fall of 2021 Guiding Principles.”