Editor's note: This message was distributed Jan. 14, before Gov. Youngkin took office. In response to the Executive Directive issued January 15 for managing responses to COVID-19, George Mason University will now strongly encourage employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, and to share their vaccination status with Mason. See the updated Spring 2022 plans.
Dear Mason Patriots:
As we prepare to return for the Spring 2022 semester, I am writing to give you important updates on how we plan to manage operations with current pandemic conditions. The arrival of the omicron variant has changed many of the rules of engagement, and it is now the predominant strain in the local area.
Given the highly infectious nature of omicron, we have seen unprecedented numbers of Mason students, staff, and faculty contracting the virus. While the numbers are sobering, we are prepared to manage under current conditions. We continue to see milder symptoms among those who are vaccinated, especially among those who have received their booster shot.
This spring we are guided by three goals for success: preserving health and safety, minimizing operational disruptions, and stopping the spread of the virus to hasten the end of the pandemic. We urge administrative and academic units to review their contingency plans and update them as appropriate.
In order to achieve our goals, we will do the following:
Return to classes – Mason is prepared for spring classes, and we will return to in-person instruction as planned. Mason is tracking the rate of transmission of active cases, monitoring for outbreaks, and working with public health officials to craft our Covid response. If conditions demand, changes to Mason’s public health policies and operations will be announced via email.
Vaccination – We are requiring that all students, staff, and faculty (without a vaccine exemption), who are eligible to receive booster shots get them and upload their new documentation to the Mason health services portal by February 15. All new students, faculty, and staff must upload their vaccination status within 2 weeks of their eligibility date or request an exemption. Please visit https://www.gmu.edu/safe-return-campus/vaccination-requirements to learn more about our vaccination requirements.
Surveillance testing – All faculty and staff are required to take a Covid test January 18-23, prior to the start of spring classes. An email will be distributed to those who are required to test with information on how to test on campus, off campus, or request an exception to this requirement. An aggressive residential student Covid surveillance testing strategy is also being implemented during the first weeks of this semester to gather baseline information on the prevalence of Covid on campus. Learn more about the safe return guidelines for students at https://housing.gmu.edu/spring-2022.
Diagnostic testing – Diagnostic tests can be hard to come by in the community, so Mason will offer drive-up diagnostic testing for employees starting January 18 at Peterson Hall. The appointment scheduler opens January 16 for January 18 appointments at https://gmu.medicatconnect.com/. Learn more about diagnostic testing at https://www.gmu.edu/safe-return-campus/personal-and-public-health/covid-19-testing.
We continue to offer students diagnostic testing and medical care through Student Health Services. To mitigate potential exposures, please do not visit one of Mason’s surveillance test sites if you are symptomatic.
Masks - Masking requirements remain in place, with the added encouragement to wear either KN95 or N95 masks. Cloth masks are proving to be less effective at stopping the circulation of microdroplets that carry the omicron variant of Covid. Mason will offer a free N95 mask to students, faculty, and staff at Mason’s COVID Test Sites and information kiosks on the Fairfax, Arlington, and SciTech Campuses. Learn more about the use of N95 respirators here.
Students who test positive – Medical staff at Student Health Services provide care to residential students who are positive and symptomatic. Mason continues to provide accommodations and/or support to residential students who remain on campus during their quarantine or isolation. Non-residential students who test positive should reach out to their primary care provider for medical care. Non-residential students who do not have a primary care provider can reach out to Student Health Services for medical care. Information regarding quarantine and isolation requirements is available here.
Employees who test positive – Employees who test positive or are unvaccinated and identified as a close contact must observe updated isolation and quarantine guidance.
Flexibility for students who miss classes due to Covid – Instructors are asked to exercise maximum flexibility for students who miss class due to Covid isolation or quarantine. Learn more at https://www.gmu.edu/faqs-faculty-and-staff.
Stay tuned – Conditions are fluid and can change rapidly, hopefully for the better. Mason will reach out to the community frequently as events warrant, so watch your email inbox for updates.
Patriots, we have forged ahead despite pandemic conditions in four prior semesters. Together, we will get through this one, as well. Welcome back!