From the beginning, Emory’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been grounded in the fundamental belief that our ability to create a safe campus environment rises from a strong community-wide partnership.

That has been our essential compact, an understanding between the university and every student, that only by working together can we succeed in our shared goal of shaping a healthier, safer campus for everyone.

Within that commitment, each partner is empowered to play a vital role — caring enough to protect one another, trusting that we can follow recommended safety protocols and exercising the diligence and discipline to make it happen every day.

As students return to campus this semester, you will notice some changes within our strategy to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — and each of these policy changes has been informed by evidence-based practices, community feedback and expanded testing capacity. We especially appreciate the invaluable input from students, which helped us to refine when and where screening testing will be offered this semester.

What does that mean for you? It’s pretty straightforward.

For the spring 2021 semester, Emory is providing three types of COVID-19 testing: onboarding testing (for move-in or accessing campus); screening testing (for asymptomatic community members); and diagnostic testing (for anyone who shows symptoms or has been exposed to someone who has tested positive). 

In addition, all students living in Emory residence halls — as well as those conducting classes, labs or research on campus — will be required to take a weekly screening test, beginning Jan. 25.

Students who are symptomatic or discover that they have been exposed to COVID-19 should not report to screening locations for testing. Instead, they should visit the Atlanta campus Student Health Portal or the Oxford College Student Health Portal and message the COVID assessment provider to schedule a diagnostic test.

To find a full summary of all student testing options — including timing, locations, instructions to register for a test — please check out the Emory Forward site. Here is where you can explore a virtual library of the latest information on testing, policies and guidelines and campus resources.

From our experience with testing last semester, we know that regular screenings offer a powerful tool in assessing the overall health of the campus community. In response to your requests, the hours and locations for campus testing have been expanded to accommodate greater convenience. Thank you for doing your part to make this work.

In the interest of mitigating COVID-19 exposure amid a rising prevalence in our region, and to reduce the impact on health care services, the University is also temporarily adjusting how we gather and interact as a community.

For now, recreation centers will be closed on the Atlanta and Oxford College campuses, and indoor gatherings of any size will not be allowed (except indoor classes, labs and research activities) — changes that will remain in effect until Feb. 8. 

Outdoor gatherings of 10 people or fewer with a faculty or staff member will continue to be permitted, and essential safety and hygiene protocols — including face coverings, physical distancing and hand-washing — will continue to be required.

As we continue moving through the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, the University will be bringing you into the conversation. We will continue to share important updates and host a series of community forums on the distribution phases in Georgia, and Emory’s strategy for approaching the process.

Even now, vaccinations are already underway for frontline health care workers and other populations.  Eligibility will be expanded to other members of the Emory community as allowed by the state of Georgia and vaccine availability.

As we enter the spring 2021 semester and begin making plans for a full return to campus this fall, know that protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff is essential to our mission — and your active participation is essential to our success.

Making that work comes down to each of us.

Thank you for doing your part to help protect your community. Thank you for your partnership in fighting this pandemic.

Thank you for making a difference. 

Amir St. Clair is Emory’s associate vice president and executive director of COVID-19 response and recovery.