U of L implements new masking requirements for fall semester Tuesday, Aug 10 2021 

By Madelin Shelton —

The university announced that effective Monday, Aug. 9, it will require masks in public, indoor spaces for all university members. This change will remain in effect until the U of L community reaches an increased vaccination rate.

“Public, indoor spaces are defined as any space inside a campus building that is not considered a private room or private office,” U of L said.

The decision comes from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent guidance that areas with high levels of transmission should begin implementing face masks, regardless of whether individuals are vaccinated or not.

“Based on the Kentucky immunization registry, we know that at least 30% of students and 67.7% of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated,” the university said. “Unless the CDC changes its recommendation, we plan to suspend our mask requirement when we reach an 80% vaccination rate in both our student and employee populations.”

In addition to the new masking guidelines, testing is required for unvaccinated university members starting Aug. 17.

The university plans to continue monitoring the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and will make changes as they deem appropriate, continuing to rely on guidelines from the CDC and other trusted health professionals.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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BRIEF: U of L lifts mask mandate for fully vaccinated Cardinals Friday, May 21 2021 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville announced on May 20 that masks will no longer be required on campus for individuals that are fully vaccinated. This announcement follows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to revise COVID-19 masking guidelines and Governor Andy Beshear’s executive order that allows vaccinated Kentuckians to go unmasked in most situations.

“Effective immediately, fully vaccinated Cardinals are not required to mask in any setting on campus,” the email announcement said. “The university strongly encourages all Cardinals to get vaccinated.”

The university defines fully vaccinated as being at least two weeks out from the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or at least two weeks out from the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Vaccine.

The email reminded the U of L community to remain respectful of those who choose to continue to wear masks.

“Please remember that there are multiple reasons why some Cardinals are not getting vaccinated and others will prefer to stay masked and physically distanced on campus despite being fully vaccinated,” the email said. “Cardinals should respect the privacy and space of those who are staying masked and distanced on campus.”

The email went on to announce that U of L will be lifting travel restrictions for both domestic and international travel. There will still be an appeals policy for travel to areas designated as high risk and more details about the new travel policy can be found on U of L’s study abroad page.

The email ended by saying that more information about the Fall 2021 semester will be released later in the summer.

“Remember, this continues to be an evolving situation and our plans may need to change depending on the latest guidance from the CDC and the state,” the email said. “We will continue to keep you frequently updated and we look forward to safely building back our vibrant campus community with you this summer and fall.”

Graphic by Eli Hughes//The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

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Trust the science, trust the vaccine Wednesday, May 5 2021 

By Alexia Juarez–

On Dec. 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. One can hope that this is the first step in minimizing cases in this still-fragile pandemic. 

The Center for Disease Control claims that the vaccines are safe and effective, as they meet the FDA’s scientific safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support its Emergency Use Authorization 

This announcement can give students at U of L hope that we can one day return to a COVID-19-free environment when we take the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. 

In early January 2021, the University of Louisville announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. U of L Health will administer the vaccine to members who choose to be vaccinated, and the first phase is distributed to those in patient care and over the ages 50 and 65. 

U of L announced that students can get vaccinated starting April 12, along with any individual 16 and up. Given this information, it is imperative everyone is granted the most accurate details to ensure their safety and well-being.  

“There are three vaccines that are currently being injected: Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna,” Paul McKinney, associate dean of the U of L School of Public Health said. McKinney said that support is needed for this vaccine in hopes to avoid another surge. 

The CDC states Johnson and Johnson has an efficacy rate of 66.3 percent, with Pfizer at 95 percent, and Moderna at 94.1 percent 

OApril 13, @POTUS on Twitter posted a video of Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, explaining that there will be a halt on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine due to a small number of adverse events.  

Fauci explains that these events were seen in six out of the 6.85 million vaccinated, and those who have already gotten the vaccine should not be worried because “The J&J vaccine has been shown in clinical trials to be highly efficacious.” 

Dr. Fauci further stated that these halts have not been found in Pfizer or Moderna.  

“Over 120 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccines,” said Fauci.  

“Only a small proportion–6.85 million–are J&J […] There have been no signals that there’s any concern about adverse events among these tens of millions of people.”  

The CDC lifted the pause on the J&J vaccine on April 23.

It is crucial that we trust the science provided by health professionals giving us the information we may not already know, in order to expand our knowledge on a virus that has impacted our lives exponentially.  

The CDC has also stated that the vaccines will undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, which includes both established and new safety systems.  

They have also debunked several myths about the vaccine, including ones that claim it can make you sick with COVID-19, and that you can test positive for the virus after vaccination.  

Fauci encourages that everyone still get vaccinated, and that these halts have nothing to do with the vaccine’s efficacy.  

“The danger of COVID-19 as a disease clearly, overwhelmingly outstrips any risk of an adverse event from a vaccine,” said Fauci.  

For more information, see the CDC’s full myth debunking site here. 

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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Students are staying safe through virtual commencement Tuesday, Nov 3 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

This semester, the University of Louisville is moving its December commencement ceremony online. It’s devastating to lose that chance to walk across the stage to your family and friends cheering you on, but it’s necessary during this global pandemic.

If the university decided to hold in-person commencement, it could be problematic. Holding an in-person commencement ceremony would risk the health of everyone in attendance. Many students, staff, faculty members, and friends/family that would attend a normal, in-person commencement are in “high-risk” groups. 

Not only that, but COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu, the CDC reports. You could be placed next to a student who is asymptomatic but coughs once and ends up spreading the virus.

Therefore, holding a commencement in the KFC Yum! Center could only spell a disaster.

And it would be hard to enforce any mandatory mask policy in a stadium that can hold over 20,000 people. It would require more manpower than before and might end up costing the university more to attend to. It would be more trouble than it’s worth to try to implement safety measures when it can be just as effective to let students stay in quarantine at home.

Alexis Logan is a senior who will be graduating in December. She said that while the move is a smart choice, she won’t be participating.

“I do agree with virtual commencement because of Corona, it would be hard to have all of us in one space safely, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be participating because it isn’t the same,” Logan said. “I never saw any of this coming—I expected a normal last semester. I think the whole experience would be different. The best part about graduation/commencement is walking across the stage with all the other graduates and in front of family and friends. It’s supposed to be a celebration of hard work for us and it’s not gonna be the same coming from our laptop screens.” 

Back in the spring, many colleges around the U.S decided to hold virtual graduation ceremonies. Doing this prevented students from gathering in close spaces where they couldn’t socially distance themselves from others or where students that can’t wear masks don’t have to worry about their safety.

U of L reassured students that once commencement is able to be held in person, graduates are welcome to attend the ceremony.

Virtual commencement will be held on  Dec. 12 at 4:00 p.m.

Although commencement is virtual, graduates can still purchase a cap and gown, as well as honor cords. Students can also book an appointment for a free graduation portrait provided by the university.

It will understandably be hard for seniors who were anticipating a normal graduation. For now, though, graduates can look forward to receiving their diploma from the comfort of their own homes. While we can only hope that this doesn’t become a normal occurrence, we can still appreciate the measures taken to protect the health and wellbeing of our U of L community.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L HR department sends self-care resources to faculty Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

By Forest Clevenger — 

An update from the University of Louisville’s Human Resources Department was sent out to faculty and staff on Sept. 9 providing resources to help cope with tension and stress. 

These resources include a virtual session that will be hosted by the Employee Assistance Program. The session will serve to support university employees following announcements from government officials about the death of Breonna Taylor. This session’s date and time is still to be determined. 

In addition, the email mentioned the free, 24/7 Employee Assistance Program counseling services and HR Learning Cafes, online sessions focused on continuing personal and professional growth.

The department included information about Yoga at Your Desk, U of L Telehealth Services, Anthem Health resources and links to the CDC’s self-care tips. 

Colleagues were also encouraged to check in on each other and supervisors were encouraged to create safe spaces where faculty and staff are able to speak freely. 

The university also reminded faculty and staff, they are still required to wear masks, physically distance and test for coronavirus to keep the campus community safe.

“I hope you will take advantage of these services if necessary. And I hope you will join me in looking out for one another as we continue to address the issues affecting us all in 2020,” Mary Elizabeth Miles, U of L’s Vice President for Human Resources, said in the email. 

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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Mental health tips to stay healthy during COVID-19 Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

By Catherine Brown–

It is often easier to worry about the physical precautions that we should take during the pandemic. Washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing in public are clear ways to care for yourself and others. But when it comes to mental health, it might not be as easy to spot the concerns.

As college students, many of us already probably struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Adding on a global pandemic certainly doesn’t make it any better.

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during a stressful global pandemic:

 

Watch for signs of mental distress.

The CDC suggests ways in which you can identify signs of distress. Some of these signs can include fear or worry about your financial situation, or your or someone else’s health, changes in sleeping patterns and difficulty concentrating. 

Seek professional help if you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs and they persist for several days leaving you unable to perform your normal responsibilities. The University of Louisville’s Counseling Center is available by phone at 502-852-6585 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Refrain from reading the news too much.

Syndicated news channels spin the news in their favor. Stories about tragedies related to the virus can incite panic and negative emotions. The CDC recommends taking healthy breaks from social media and television reports about the pandemic. 

When you do use social media, be sure to verify your news sources.

Local governments will usually have the most up-to-date information. Don’t read too heavily into the information you see posted on social media. Anyone can post false information on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Don’t fall into the traps of clickbait news. By carefully choosing your sources of news, you can prevent stumbling upon false information that could cause worry.

 

Take time to enjoy activities while socially distancing.

Practice hobbies that can keep you socially distanced, but can still be done with friends. Some hobbies can include reading, writing, drawing or even coding.

U of L Counseling Center Director Aesha Uqdah gave students tips for coping with the pandemic, such as being creative at this time. 

“Engaging in creative activities can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Creating some sort of art or writing can help you process your emotions in a productive way. It can also produce calming effects on your brain and in the body,” Uqdah said.

The Counseling Center is hosting virtual group art therapy sessions on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. starting Sept. 18. 

On Aug. 25, U of L is hosting a virtual RSO Fair for students to become involved in their Louisville community. This is an opportunity for students to look for activities that can let them separate from classwork.

 

Keep in touch with friends and family.

Take time to text, call or video chat your friends and family. Touch base with the people you care most about and let them know that you are alright. This could relieve worries for those of us who become preoccupied with the wellbeing of loved ones.

Take care of yourself physically too.

If you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, chances are your mental health will be affected. Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and keep up a regular sleep schedule. 

U of L’s Belknap campus has plenty of walking trails. With approximately 274 acres of land, the downtown campus is perfect for students looking to get some exercise into their day. Even walking from campus housing and between buildings can improve physical health. Improving physical health will improve mental health.

Make sure you put your health first. It might seem more worthy of your energy to worry about others. However, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t put in your full effort to take care of those around you.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Masking Questions: How Pandemic Health Measures Became Politicized Monday, Jul 6 2020 

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Health officials and researchers say the science is clear: face masks can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Yet in the Ohio Valley, not all elected officials are in agreement on whether to mandate measures such as the use of face masks in public places. 

In April, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initially announced the mandatory use of face masks in retail settings, only to walk back the mandate during the next day’s press conference to say it was only a recommendation. West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice recently said that mandatory use of face masks would be impossible to enforce and would “divide us.” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, ordered face mask use in public, but people who don’t wear one won’t be fined, though businesses that require masks can turn away customers who aren’t wearing one.

As of July 1 daily coronavirus case numbers were approaching a high point in KY.


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Questions And Anxiety Mount Over COVID-19 Workplace Safety As More Businesses Reopen Friday, May 29 2020 

Gail Fleck is a school cafeteria worker in the greater Cincinnati area and lives with her 90-year-old father. She loves her job because she gets to work with kids. But she is worried she won’t be able to keep her dad safe if her work exposes her to the coronavirus and she unknowingly brings it home. 

“I’m scared, I’m worried. I feel like, we’re talking about life and death here and this is my father,” she said. 

Fleck, who didn’t want to name her workplace, said she hasn’t been back to work since before the schools went on spring break. When she ran out of sick days, she stopped receiving a paycheck. 

“I’ve just worked very hard at keeping myself and my father at home and not going out,” she said. 

Workers like Fleck across the Ohio Valley face difficult choices now that states are gradually reopening workplaces. Many don’t feel safe going back to work, and adding to the anxiety is the uncertainty about the enforcement of safety standards for businesses that are reopening. During pointed questioning at a Congressional hearing Thursday a top official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was not able to say how many workplaces are seeing cases of COVID-19.  

Who Keeps Workers Safe?

OSHA is the main federal agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety standards. Ohio and West Virginia are among roughly half the states where OSHA has direct oversight of most work safety regulations. Kentucky is among the states with a federally approved work safety program administered by the state. The Kentucky Labor Cabinet said it is working with businesses to ensure they are complying with Kentucky’s minimum requirements.

“Notes of Deficiency, and if necessary, orders to cease operations will be issued to businesses that demonstrate they are not making substantive efforts to comply with the reopening requirements,” Kentucky Labor Cabinet Chief of Staff Marjorie Arnold said in an email.

Some work safety advocates have criticized the federal OSHA’s lack of involvement in workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety and Health Program Director at the left-leaning nonprofit National Employment Law Project, Deborah Berkowitz, said OSHA should be taking more action to help keep workers safe. 

“The sad reality is that OSHA is failing here,” Berkowitz said. “They’ve actually just walked away from this whole pandemic and decided that though they could, they’re not going to do any enforcement. They’re not going to issue any mandates that are requirements, and instead, they’ll issue a poster or publication.”

Berkowitz was previously chief of staff and senior policy adviser for OSHA under the Obama administration. She advises if employers are not following the Centers for Disease Control guidance, the employee should file a complaint with OSHA. 

“Even though they’re not going to go out and do an inspection, I think they will call the employer and say a complaint has been filed,” Berkowitz said.  

She also said local health departments should be notified, in order for community spread to be prevented. Ultimately, Berkowitz said localities need to be smart about reopening and not sacrifice the safety of workers for the health of the economy. 

“But if you cut corners, and say that employers can do whatever they want at work, then most likely, you will see what’s happening in meatpacking plants and poultry plants right now around the country, and that is the spread of this disease will whip like wildfires around the workplace and back into the community,” she said. 

Heated Hearing

In an Education and Labor Committee House hearing Thursday witnesses with OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were questioned about their role in keeping workers safe in the era of COVID-19. 

Principal Deputy Secretary of OSHA Loren Sweatt defended her agency’s decision against a new regulatory standard on coronavirus safety.

In questions from Democrats on the panel Sweatt was not able to say how many workplaces have reported cases of coronavirus. She also told the committee that a lawsuit against the agency, filed by the AFL-CIO, prevented her from answering some questions about OSHA’s actions. 

Sweatt said there have been at least 1,374 whistleblower COVID-19 complaints as of May 26. However, none of those businesses have been sanctioned for retaliation against employees. She said there’s no statute of limitations on investigations of those complaints. 

“While investigations are ongoing I can tell you in certain circumstances, we have seen resolution almost immediately when the whistleblower calls to initiate the investigation,” Sweatt said. 

Sweatt clarified that a resolution means a worker getting their job back as well as back pay after allegedly being punished by their employer for making a complaint to OSHA. 

NIOSH Director John Howard said his organization has just started tracking coronavirus cases in the workplace, about two months after the virus was declared a pandemic. 

“We have been getting better at tracking occupation and industry for COVID-19 cases,” he said. “We have a new case report form that we are hoping that the states will start using.”

Howard said NIOSH is now beginning to track coronavirus cases in meatpacking plants. Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have all seen large outbreaks in meat processing facilities as workers try to keep up with soaring demand from consumers. 

Back To Work

Ohio Valley workers are left to navigate a lot of uncertainty as many of them return to work amid health and safety concerns. And some state actions appear to limit an employees’ options. For example, in Ohio, the state’s Department of Job and Family Services now has a form online where employers can report employees who quit or refuse to work due to concerns about COVID-19. Officials in Ohio say the form has always been available online but has only changed focus so employers can report workers who use the fear of contracting the virus as a reason for not wanting to return to work. 

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have been working to reopen their economies a few sectors at a time. The first sector to reopen was healthcare. Now restaurants are opening to in-person dining, as well as recreational activities, fitness centers, and cosmetology services. Many of the facilities aren’t the same as they were pre-pandemic, with limited occupancy and increased personal protective equipment for customers and workers. 

Tom Tsai is an assistant professor in Health Policy and Management at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Global Health Institute. 

“The overall message, though is more important than the thresholds for reopening, is that this is not an on-off switch, but really a dial,” he said. “The states need to really consider having very clear metrics on what success or failure looks like.”

Tsai said there is already some “social distancing fatigue” people are feeling and that’s why it’s important to get the policy correct now.

“Because in some ways, once the floodgates open, in terms of trying to return to normal, it’s going to be very hard to reinstitute social distancing measures,” he said.

College of Arts and Sciences creates emergency resource page for COVID-19 outbreak Tuesday, Mar 17 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville’s College of Arts and Sciences has created an emergency resource section on their website to help make sure students, faculty and staff stay informed during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

 The resources include travel guidelines, information on working from home, resources for professors moving courses online, departmental emergency plans and tips to stay healthy.

The website also contains links to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 resources and the Campus Health Services site. 

The resources can also be accessed by clicking on the banner on the Arts and Sciences homepage. 

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

 

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President Neeli Bendapudi announces cancellation of U of L events and remote work plan for faculty and staff Monday, Mar 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email March 14 that all campus events would be canceled or postponed until at least April 5 to help limit the spread of COVID-19. 

She went on to say the university will still be open, but eligible faculty and staff should work remotely.

Bendapudi introduced these measures as a way to keep the campus functioning while prioritizing the safety of the university community.

“In our Cardinal community of care, we cherish, support and are there for one another,” Bendapudi said. 

“Just as our campus community serves as a primary home for so many of our students, it also is an important source of income and the foundation of the livelihoods for so many of our staff and faculty. I take that reality and responsibility seriously. “

Bendapudi has been working with her leadership team to reduce the number of faculty and staff on campus without interfering with the operation of the university. 

Faculty and staff’s ability to work remotely will be decided based on the practicality of their job being done remotely and their access to the proper equipment. There will still be some staff present on campus to help keep the university operational.

These positions include custodians, campus housing staff, library staff, etc. The staff present on the Health Science Campus will be decided based on patient care.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these social distancing efforts for areas where COVID-19 is spreading. The CDC suggests avoiding close contact with groups and people who feel sick. 

More information about COVID-19 and U of L’s response can be found at https://louisville.edu/campushealth/information/coronavirus

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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