COVID-19 February and March directive updates

February 19, 2021

This message was sent to students, faculty and staff at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Dear Wolf Pack Family,

I hope this message finds you well and you are as excited as I am about the recent positive trends we have seen in our community and on our campus regarding COVID-19. Although these trends, which include a lower community COVID-19 positivity rate and less cases overall, are promising, what we have learned throughout this near-year-long pandemic is also worth remembering. The intensity of the pandemic can increase at any time. We must continue to be vigilant in everything we do — wear facial coverings, wash our hands frequently, practice social distancing, and be aware of the latest notifications regarding vaccine eligibility. I wish to thank everyone for following the spring semester’s health and safety protocols, both on and off campus. It is making a difference.

Nevada’s vaccination effort, which has reflected effort throughout the nation in that distribution has been at times uneven and has required patience from all of us, has nevertheless had a notable impact on the spread of COVID-19 in our state. Gov. Sisolak last week pointed to this positive trend in announcing several new public health directives that will help Nevada transition to a new period.

Vaccination updates

Here are a few of Gov. Sisolak’s directives and how they relate to current University conditions:

Based on Gov. Sisolak’s newest information that vaccinations will be available for individuals over the age of 65 at partner pharmacies beginning next week, we are recommending that any of our employees who are 65 and older seek this route of vaccination as soon as possible and should not wait to get their vaccinations based upon their University employment eligibility. Employees can look at Immunize Nevada’s county specific COVID-19 vaccine plan for vaccination age eligibility. Currently it states 70+ at pharmacies but that will change next week based on Governor’s announcement.

In the coming days, we will also learn more about whether some University personnel can receive vaccinations in the next upcoming lane of vaccinations, which will be “Frontline Supply Chain and Logistics.” According to the State of Nevada’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Playbook [external PDF], this will include individuals who work in agriculture and food processing and utilities and communication infrastructure. Depending on state and county guidance, there could be University employees who will be included in these categories. If eligible, personnel will receive vaccination notification from Human Resources.

“NSHE students living in campus-sponsored residential settings” and “NSHE remaining workforce” are to be vaccinated following “Frontline Supply Chain and Logistics,” “Frontline Commerce and Service Industries,” and “Frontline Infrastructure.”

Modes of instruction not changing

Gov. Sisolak’s directives also address capacity for gatherings. After careful study of classroom and laboratory sizes, and the continued requirement for safe social distancing configurations, we have determined that the physical restrictions in our classrooms and laboratories simply prevent us from increasing any of their current social distancing capacities.

Therefore, our modes of teaching, both in classrooms and in laboratories, will remain the same for this semester and will not change. 

Virtual commencement

Although we wish circumstances were different, even as the collective effort and actions of so many in our community have helped move the needle in a positive direction, we have begun planning a virtual Commencement Ceremony for all May 2021 graduates on Friday, May 14, 2021. The complexities and challenges associated with planning such a large gathering as commencement must be made with careful deliberation and with thought toward the health and well-being of our graduates, their families and those who live in our community.

It is my hope that our days, just as they grow longer this time of year, will also continue to brighten for you, your friends, families and co-workers. As long as we continue to work together, to support one another and to offer assistance in times of need, we will find our best days again. Thank you for all that you are doing to follow our health and safety guidelines, and to help further our mission. Go Pack!

Sincere Regards,

Brian Sandoval