We are asked every day about plans for the fall semester, and our responses are consistently positive. We know there are real concerns about what will happen when we bring thousands of students back to our area, but our optimism is well-founded on experience and the tremendous evidence-based efforts underway to safely welcome students back to our campuses and classrooms. Doing so is at the heart of our common mission, and critical to the economic recovery of the region.
We know that vaccines are the best tools to slow the pandemic and the vaccination rate is already over 90 percent among several campus communities. For most institutions, only vaccinated students or those that have received a handful of exemptions may attend class in person or move into our residence halls. At several institutions, unvaccinated community members without exemptions will be entirely precluded from being on campus.
In addition, most of our institutions require COVID tests for all vaccinated or unvaccinated students before and at arrival. Many will continue surveillance of unvaccinated students throughout the semester, and many will test vaccinated students as well. Our campuses continue to adhere to the latest health guidelines for contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine, in addition to requiring masks and other mitigation strategies.
Although vaccines are highly effective, breakthrough cases do occur. We know that our extensive testing – far broader than public testing rates – will result in community members testing positive in the first weeks of the semester. Finding these cases and taking the appropriate measures shows that our surveillance efforts are working and that we are being proactive in preventing further spread of COVID in our community.
Despite the tremendous challenges of the past year, we are incredibly proud of the resilience of our students, faculty, and staff. With the help of our medical and public health experts and incredible efforts by our campus teams, many students safely lived in our residence halls, ate in our dining halls, learned in our classrooms, and played on our teams. Not only have we worked to keep our communities safe on campus, our community members also volunteered to administer COVID testing and vaccines, support vaccine and testing sites, and use their expertise to provide trustworthy, compelling information through community webinars. We are especially proud that, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, our collaborative COVID testing program is a critical component for reopening District of Columbia public schools. We are also grateful to our ongoing partnership with area elected and public health officials who continue to work with us every day to ensure that we are reopening our campuses as safely as possible.
As the largest non-government employers in the region, the largest sources for long term visitors, and the heart of development of our future workforce, we know how important our institutions are to the region’s equitable economic recovery. Local businesses are desperate to once again have our students as their customers, in addition to the jobs our students will fill and the countless hours of community service they provide. We maintain an unwavering commitment to opening safely, and renewing our vital commitment to our hometown.
Sylvia M. Burwell, President
John H. Garvey, President
Catholic University of America
Andrew L. Flagel, President & CEO
Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
Roberta J. Cordano, President
Gallaudet University; Consortium Board Chair
John J. DeGioia, President
Gregory N. Washington, President
George Mason University
Thomas J. LeBlanc, President
George Washington University
Wayne A. I. Frederick, President
Howard University; Consortium Board Past-Chair
Irma Becerra, President
Patricia A. McGuire, President
Trinity Washington University
Ronald F. Mason, Jr., President
University of the District of Columbia; Consortium Board Vice-Chair
Darryll J. Pines, President
University of Maryland College Park
Gregory W. Fowler, President
University of Maryland Global Campus