U of L reports decreasing COVID-19 positivity rate after weeks of mask-optional policy Wednesday, Sep 21 2022 

By Joe Wilson —

Weeks after the start of classes, U of L has reported low COVID-19 cases and has no plans to change its mask-optional policy.

According to reports obtained by The Louisville Cardinal, the university had a COVID positivity rate of 17.9 percent in the week of Sept. 12. This marks a steady decline of positivity rate compared to the first week of classes. Back then, U of L reported a positivity rate of 37.9 percent.

Since the start of the Fall 2022 semester, the university has administered an average of 55 COVID tests a week. U of L calculates the positivity rate from the number of tests taken, not the entire student body population. The roughly 18 percent positivity rate, therefore, is a much smaller portion of overall U of L students.

Dr. Phillip Bressoud, a professor of medicine and Executive Director of Campus Health Services, says that “at this time the COVID operations committee doesn’t foresee implementing any new requirements. We are strongly recommending that everyone, especially those over the age of 50, get the Bivalent COVID-19 booster which is available through Campus Health Services on the Belknap and HSC campuses.” 

In July, the university announced it will not mandate mask wearing in the classroom, opting for a mask-optional policy. Later that summer, the university gave away free KN95 masks to any student, faculty, or staff member who wanted them. Since the start of class, mask-wearing has been sparse among both students and faculty.

According to the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness, Jefferson County reported a total of 1,246 COVID cases last week. COVID cases have been steady in Jefferson County, with an average range of 1,000-3,000 reported cases a week since May 2022. The department labels Jefferson County as “medium risk.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people who live in medium-risk areas to stay up to date with vaccinations and get tested if COVID symptoms develop.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal //

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Brown and Hayden, rest of Top 4 hope to Revitalize Student Community Sunday, Sep 4 2022 

By Joe Wilson —

Excitement, community, and potential. These are just some of the words that the the top 4 officers of the Student Government Association (SGA) use to describe the upcoming school year.

Earlier this week, Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden spoke with The Louisville Cardinal about their new roles as SGA’s Student Body President and Executive Vice President, respectively. 

Prior to Their Positions

Both Brown and Hayden were elected to their posts in Spring 2022, after a tumultuous election cycle that involved months-long lawsuits and a run-off election. Reflecting on the election, Brown recalls being caught off guard by the contentious end of the campaign. “When it got deeper into the process, it kind of fueled my fire to want to be a person that can make changes in the future so that this situation doesn’t happen again in the upcoming years,” he said.

Speaking about the election, Hayden adds, “It was really hard. I would say there are a lot of different factors playing into the election. At the end of the day, we were very happy that it turned out how it did.”

What’s in Store For The Top 4

Shifting the conversation away from the past, both Brown and Hayden expressed optimism about the future on campus, including a wish to revitalize U of L’s student community after the university decided to ease most of its COVID-19 restrictions from the previous two years. In August, the university announced it would no longer require students, faculty, and staff to wear masks indoors. 

Hayden noted the improvement in student morale after the mask policy change. “It’s kind of funny, because you see people around campus that you’ve known for years, and they look completely different because you’ve been looking at them under a mask, so we’re excited to get a lot more face-to-face interaction this year.”

Ultimately, Hayden explains, the changes to the mask policy were made in consideration of public health guidelines and students’ mental health. “We talked about a lot of different factors that played into it, whether the mental health aspect of wearing a mask, the depression rates,” she explained.

Brown adds that the university continues to monitor COVID-19 cases on campus and will update the masking policy as needed. “We’re still going to track the COVID positive rates and base our next decisions on those.” Above all, Brown emphasized his goal to give students a typical college experience.

Looking Towards a Safer Future

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown and Hayden see campus security as a top priority in their administration. Hayden explains, “We’ve been working very closely with U of L PD to ensure we’re being extremely transparent in our measures. The university has put a lot of money into safety measures across the board.”

Reflecting on the other challenges the U of L community faces, Brown remains hopeful for the future. “We don’t know what’s in store for this year, but we have a lot of potential to have one of the best years the university has seen so far.”

To learn more about the SGA, you can do so here. You can follow them on Instagram here.

File Photo // U of L SGA //

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Free KN95 Masks Available on Campus Thursday, Aug 11 2022 

By Joe Wilson —

On Aug. 11, U of L announced that it will provide two, free KN95 masks on campus as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Jefferson County.

Beginning Aug. 15, students can pick up their masks at the following locations:

  • Student Recreation Center 
  • Student Activities Center, Welcome Center East 
  • Office of Admissions 
  • University Libraries 
  • Student Success Center, Belknap Academic Building 
  • Cultural Center 
  • International Center 
  • SGA Offices, Student Activities Center 
  • Shelby Campus administrative offices

The news comes shortly after the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness marked Jefferson County as a high-risk area. According to the department’s database, a total of 2,652 COVID cases were confirmed last week alone, with 16 reported deaths. The BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus are largely responsible for the surge.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people to mask indoors when in a high-risk area. However, updated guidance from the CDC is expected in the coming days. The university says it will update its COVID policy in accordance with the CDC’s recommendations.

Meanwhile, the university will continue to follow the current Health & Safety Protocols on its COVID-19 website.

U of L declined a request to comment further on the news but will update students, faculty, and staff on its COVID-19 guidelines near the start of the Fall semester.

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U of L Announces COVID-19 Update; Masks Encouraged, Not Required Friday, Jul 29 2022 

By Joe Wilson —

On July 29, U of L announced it will encourage indoor mask use because COVID-19 cases have surged in Jefferson County in recent weeks.

In a mass email, the university explained they will strongly encourage all people to wear masks indoors while cases increase. However, the email stresses that there are no changes to the university’s COVID-19 policy at the time.

The announcement stops short of requiring masks indoors, but states the university will continue to send updates on its COVID policies in the coming weeks.

The Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness labels Jefferson County a high-risk area. The new BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus are fueling the latest surge. When a county is at high-risk of COVID transmission, the CDC recommends people to mask indoors.

John Karman, the Executive Director of Communications, reiterated the university’s stance on the issue to The Louisville Cardinal. “University leadership determined that the current policy encouraging indoor mask usage is the best plan given the current state of COVID in Jefferson County. Our policy is consistent with that of the other public universities in the state. We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID and adjust our policy as conditions dictate.”

In the meantime, the university plans to distribute free KN95 masks before the fall semester begins.

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U of L makes concessions in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 26 2022 

By Madelin Shelton —

The university has announced flexibility in its course delivery policy after significant pushback from the U of L community.

Faculty are now allowed to temporarily shift their mode of instruction from face-to-face to virtual and use remote work options in accordance with their supervisor or department chair. U of L updated the Emergency Temporary Leave Guidelines to reflect the new standards, along with the policy on flexible scheduling.

Guidelines for faculty are summarized as follows:

  • Express your specific request to your immediate department chair.
  • If you’re concerned that your chair is not granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact your dean.
  • If you’re concerned that neither your chair nor dean are granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact the Office of the Provost (provost@louisville.edu).

Guidelines for staff are as follows:

  • Express your specific request to your immediate supervisor.
  • If you’re concerned that your supervisor is not granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact the next level(s) of supervision.
  • If you’ve exhausted all levels of supervision in your chain of command and are still concerned, contact HR’s Employee Relations Team (emrelate@louisville.edu).

“The guidelines and policy mentioned below are in place to support our faculty and staff while still offering the highest level of instruction and service to our students. They are meant to be short-term solutions, and do not suggest that faculty may switch modes of course delivery for the entire semester,” the university said in a statement.

The change of course comes after U of L faced extensive criticism for requiring faculty to teach in-person unless they were sick with or exposed to COVID-19. The U of L Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, College of A&S Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and the United Campus Workers all spoke out against the original policy. A petition sponsored by the UCW demanding more flexibility in course delivery policy and stricter COVID-19 regulations garnered over 1,700 signatures. The UCW also held a rally and expressed opposition to the policy at a board of trustees meeting last week.

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Immunocompromised student speaks out against course delivery policy Sunday, Jan 16 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

A psychology graduate student at U of L wants flexibility in the university’s course delivery policy and her message has gone viral.

Madison Shannon was hospitalized from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15 with complications from an open-heart surgery she underwent Dec. 17.

Shannon posted an email correspondence with U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez to her Instagram and Facebook pages, and she said it has been shared over 200 times and has received more than 1,900 likes.

She discussed her experience post-surgery. “It was a very scary experience, and it was overwhelming as well. I was delirious,” she said. Shannon thought she was going to die from the complications.

Shannon describes herself as medically complex. She was born with aortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect which results in reduced or blocked blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. She also has Turner syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that affects only females in which one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing. Shannon has had three open-heart surgeries.

On Jan. 9, Shannon sent an email to Gonzalez in response to a U of L update reiterating the university’s decision to continue the Spring semester in-person.

Shannon’s email criticized the university’s decision regarding its course delivery policy. “The way that the university has handle the COVID situation has been completely disappointing and inaccessible. I understand being concerned about academic performance and mental well-being of students, but some of the students, faculty, and staff are concerned about our livelihood,” she said.

“I am so sorry to hear about you health issue. I wish you a quick recovery. Take care,” Gonzalez responded.

Shannon was deeply disappointed by Gonzalez’s response. “It felt like ‘okay that’s your problem, that’s not a problem as a university.’ Whereas I feel like it is a university problem. A lot of people expect young 20-year-olds and teenagers to be relatively healthy but that’s not always the case and, you know, I’m the perfect example of that,” she said. “I feel like we’re not being seen as people, we’re not being seen at all honestly.”

In defending the course delivery policy, the university has cited the 91 percent vaccination rate of the U of L community, but Shannon argues that is not enough.

She is fully vaccinated, but not boosted because of the issues it could pose for her currently weakened immune system. Her doctors are also concerned about the toll COVID-19 would have on her body even with being fully vaccinated, especially three weeks post-op from major surgery.

Shannon acknowledged that mental health and academic performance are important considerations, but she believes there are more crucial factors to consider. “Those are important, but it doesn’t just affect everyone that little. It affects people in much bigger ways, like my livelihood. I would prefer to live.”

Shannon has received permission to conduct her classes virtually until February given her current health situation and the need for a mandated quarantine period post-hospital stay. However, to her understanding she is expected to attend class in-person after that point.

Shannon belongs to the United Campus Workers, a group composed of campus workers from across Kentucky. Along with United Campus Workers, Shannon is asking for the option of online instruction for both faculty and students and more stringent COVID-19 prevention strategies. The organization created a petition for these initiatives that has amassed over 1,500 signatures.

The Louisville Cardinal reached out to the university for further comment and none was given.

Photo Courtesy // Madison Shannon

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Dean Owen indicates no change in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 12 2022 


By Madelin Shelton — 

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean David Owen responded to the uproar from faculty over the university’s policy of mandated in-person courses and reaffirmed the university’s stance.

After U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez sent out an announcement to the entire university community informing them that the semester would be conducted as originally planned for both in-person and virtual courses, Owen sent out a reminder on Jan. 7 to A&S faculty reminding them to conduct courses how they were described in the Schedule of Courses.

A&S faculty began voicing their frustrations to the dean in an email chain over the weekend.

Owen sent a note to A&S department chairs on Sunday, Jan. 9. “I told them it was their responsibility to make sure these courses were taught as they were advertised,” Owen said. He said he expected faculty to abide by university policy, and failure to follow said policy could result in accountability, including disciplinary action.

Some of the deans and faculty viewed this as Owen threatening the faculty with punishment if they failed to teach the courses through their original method. He acknowledged that some individuals perceived this note as a threat, but Owen claims he was simply referring to the expectation that faculty abide by university policy.

Faculty complained the policy is inflexible for individuals who are, for example, vaccinated themselves but have young children at home who are unable to get one. When asked about this type of specific circumstance, Owen referenced U of L’s ability to maintain face-to-face courses throughout the pandemic the last year by implementing health protocols like masking and social distancing. He also mentioned the university’s vaccination rate of over 90 percent.

“Nothing has changed really in this occurrence,” he said. “You know, it’s a particular spike of a new variant but we’ve dealt with spikes in variants before while remaining on campus.”

He continued, “If faculty or staff have particular health concerns, whether it’s with their own health or health of family members in their household, whether they’re children or parents that might be living with them or somebody who’s immunocompromised, we have a family medical leave policy that can account for that. Folks have applied for that in those circumstances.” Faculty are not permitted to teach, even virtually, should they choose a family medical leave option.

Owen said the university crafts policy that prioritizes equity and accounts for all faculty, staff and students. However, some individuals have criticized this policy as detracting from equity. Dr. Tracy K’Meyer, a Professor of History at U of L, spoke on this point.

“In the dean’s note, he referenced treating everybody equitably. Part of it is that’s kind of a misuse of the term equitably. Equity doesn’t mean treating everybody the same, it means treating people based on their own circumstances.”

More than just faculty have spoken out against the university’s policy. A petition opposing it sponsored by the U of L chapter of United Campus Workers has over 1,500 signatures from faculty, staff, students and other community members.

The U of L chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the College of A&S Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee have released statements in opposition to the policy.

Owen did clarify that faculty were never given the autonomy throughout the pandemic to teach courses in a way that diverged from the chosen method listed in the original Schedule of Courses, unless they were exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 and temporarily needed to move instruction online. During periods when all courses were taught virtually due to the pandemic, it was a university-wide policy.

When asked if the university planned on changing its policy in response to the significant pushback it has received, Owen said “My understanding is there is no intention to change the policy at the university level and that is what I will follow.” However, he did mention that President Gonzalez and her team were constantly monitoring the ever-evolving circumstances of the pandemic and could change policy when deemed necessary.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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U of L will require COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, Nov 18 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

President Neeli Bendapudi  announced Nov. 18 university employees will be required to be vaccinated or face disciplinary action. This decision comes in light of President Biden’s September executive order requiring federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The university is subject to Executive Order 14042 because of multiple federal contracts and agreements U of L depends on for operation.

The university reports more than 91 percent of students, faculty and staff are already fully vaccinated.

Bendapudi said that those faculty, staff and students who have not been vaccinated will be contacted directly and must be fully vaccinated or have approved medical or religious exemption on file by Jan. 18, 2022. Those who receive an exemption must get tested regularly.

“Those who fail to comply with the vaccination mandate or who fail to submit their updated medical or religious exemption will be subject to disciplinary action that may include unpaid leave and separation from the university,” she said.

This federal regulation also requires that U of L maintains mask and social distancing policies in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Members of the U of L community can get more information about being vaccinated on campus here.

 

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal 

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U of L students and faculty following COVID-19 guidelines this semester Tuesday, Nov 16 2021 

By Alexia Juarez — 

As we reach the end of the fall semester, it’s imperative that students on campus still stay informed regarding the University of Louisville’s COVID-19 guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. 

On Nov. 9, U of L informed the university that Campus Health Services will be providing COVID-19 boosters to faculty, staff and students by appointment. From Nov. 17-19, the university will also provide a vaccine clinic at the Student Activities Center from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.  

The university has also provided a list of health protocols provided on the university’s web page. Some of these include wearing a mask in common areas, disinfecting used surfaces and staying home if a student feels sick to avoid contact with others.

Students residing on campus were required to complete training videos sent out via e-mail and review university actions and individual responsibilities for the fall semester. These procedures are completely understandable, as campus students are potentially exposed at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than those going solely online. 

The university also updated the student code, requiring full compliance with public health policies. These include abiding by the face mask policies or being asked to leave a lecture at the discretion of the instructor. It’s important that students and staff do their part in ensuring their own safety, as well as the safety of others, to avoid a serious wave of cases.  

Students are not the only ones at risk. The university has also provided faculty with the option to conduct their courses online or hybrid. Faculty are given the choice to request modifications to their fall teaching schedules, which are then be considered by their department’s chair or dean.  

Faculty will be the driving force in helping to make the most out of their students’ education in such an unpredictable time. Several professors, like mine, have strongly encouraged students to get their vaccines by sending reminders and announcing incentives for such actions. 

Siobhan Smith-Jones, a communication professor at U of L, sent out an email in September announcing Campus Health’s pop-up vaccination events. 

Smith-Jones said she believes that the administration has done as good of a job as they can and finds that the online instruction has made her teaching schedule more flexible. She also emphasized how the pandemic and instruction change has affected her students.  

“While a base level of stress is natural for college students, my students seemed to be stressed out more since the pandemic,” said Smith-Jones. 

Overall, it’s important we take these last few weeks of the fall semester and finish strong. The emotional and mental toll this pandemic has taken on students and instructors has been a journey to say the least, but as long as we keep our heads high and push through, we can look forward to this holiday season with eager anticipation.  

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L sets dates for pop-up vaccine and booster clinics Tuesday, Nov 9 2021 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville announced on Nov. 9 that they would host another round of pop-up clinics for COVID vaccines/boosters and flu vaccines. The clinics will run from Nov. 10 through Nov. 12 on the Health Sciences Campus and from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19 on the Belknap Campus.

“U of L Campus Health Services will be offering Covid boosters, Covid vaccinations and flu vaccinations this week at the Health Sciences Center and next week on the Belknap Campus to faculty, staff and students,” the email said.  “You can get both your Covid vaccine/booster and your flu vaccine at the same time if desired.”

The HSC clinics will be in the U of L Healthcare Outpatient Center in the Conference Center/Physicians Lounge across from suite 110 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Belknap clinics will be at the SAC across from the mail/print shop from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Those interested in being vaccinated are encouraged to register beforehand to save time, but walk-ins will be accepted. Campus Health Services attached the following instructions for scheduling an appointment ahead of time:

“1. If you want to receive a flu vaccine and a COVID vaccine you will need to make two appointments.

2. Go to https://louisvilleportal.pointnclick.com

3. Click the “Student, Staff and Faculty” button at the top of the page. 4. Microsoft login screen will open. Sign using your ULINK ID@louisville.edu and associated password

5. “Stay Signed In” screen will appear and click No.

6. Confirm your identity by entering your date of birth and click proceed.

7. You should now be on the main page of the Campus Health Patient Portal.

8. To schedule an appointment, click on View, Check-in or Book an Appointment.”

More information about the COVID-19 vaccine, the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Website.

Graphic by Eli Hughes//The Louisville Cardinal

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