COVID-19 Updates

August 4, 2021, Important COVID-19 Response Update from President LaForge:

Greetings to all students, faculty, and staff!

Welcome to the start of a new school year!  The beginning of the new academic year brings renewed excitement and energy on campus, and especially now after the challenging year we just experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we prepare for the return of our students and faculty, an important element of that preparation is the need to continue to keep our people and our campus safe.  Toward that end, I have an important message regarding updates to our COVID-19 protocols.

Along with the Presidents of the other public universities in Mississippi, I have been having regular conversations with state and local officials regarding the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the new “delta variant.”  Health officials have learned that this strain of COVID-19 is much more virulent and contagious than the “alpha variant” we dealt with previously.  We are being cautioned that a large majority of students who will populate the state’s university campuses in the coming weeks will likely be unvaccinated, and that there could be widespread transmission over the next several weeks. Consequently, Delta State (as well as the other state universities) is preparing for this challenging period of time by following good science and the recommendations of our state health department.

We had hoped that the start of the new academic year would bring a full return to normalcy.  But, unfortunately, our state is not there just yet.  However, I am pleased that we will open school with a full slate of face-to-face classes, and will resume regular activities and events while implementing a few health-related protocols.

Our goal is to relax our COVID-19 protocols further when the surge subsides, and eventually return to complete normalcy. However, to do so, we must be diligent in adhering to the new protocols and work together to weather this challenging time.

In an effort to keep our campus community safe, and in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and with guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health, Delta State has adopted the following strategies, effective immediately, as it relates to the safety of all members of our community.

1. Face coverings are required of everyone for all indoor activities, including all classrooms.

Regardless of vaccination status, all persons must properly wear a face covering indoors, except when alone in a personal space or an assigned residence hall room. This applies to classrooms and other indoor meetings and events. While face coverings are not required when outdoors, face coverings are strongly recommended in any outdoor setting in which you are unable to maintain a physical distance from others of at least three (3) feet.

This mandate is temporary, and will be lifted as soon as State health officials advise that it is safe to do so. Delta State is actively monitoring this situation in coordination with guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and other members of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. As the surge in the delta variant (or other variants) subsides, as well as an increased number of our community members become vaccinated and/or voluntarily submit proof of their vaccination, Delta State University will consider lifting this mandate.  Please note that all eight state universities are employing this mandate.

2. Stay Home If Sick

It is imperative that anyone who has symptoms of any infectious illness, regardless of vaccination status, stay home from school or work, and be evaluated by their healthcare provider. Students, faculty, and staff are not to return to campus until symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours; or, if COVID-19 is diagnosed, until the isolation criteria for return has been achieved.

3. COVID-19 Protocols will be simple

For your safety and the safety of others, it is imperative that you notify the appropriate campus official(s) if you believe you have COVID-19, have had close contact (15 minutes of cumulative contact over a 24-hour period at <6 feet) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if you have tested positive for COVID-19. Students should notify the Office of Health and Counseling Services at 846-4690.  Employees should notify the Office of Human Resources at 846-4035. These entities will work with you to ensure your safety, to implement appropriate protocols for notifying those who have been in close contact, and to sanitize utilized areas.

4. You are highly encouraged to get one of the available COVID-19 vaccinations.

While a COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory, the University highly encourages all members of the Delta State community to get a COVID-19 vaccination. They are widely available, including at our health center on campus. Vaccination remains the primary public health prevention strategy to end transmission and allow for safe participation of in-person classes and sponsored activities.

Advantages of having students, faculty, and staff fully vaccinated include:

    • Keeps the learning environment safe for in-person learning.
    • Lowers the risk of transmission and reduces the severity of illness if infected.
    • Limits disruptions to in-person learning and other activities.
    • If exposed to COVID-19, no quarantine is necessary for fully vaccinated individuals (unless symptoms develop), which keeps students, faculty, and staff fully engaged.

It is estimated that only 36% – 40% of Delta State’s employees, and 25% of our students, have been vaccinated to date.  In an effort to monitor the health and safety of the University, Delta State is asking that employees and students voluntarily submit proof of their vaccination. Delta State will not disclose the vaccination proof (nor any other protected health information). The objective is to inform the campus community of the percentage of individuals who have been vaccinated in the student/employee populations, and to gauge the University’s overall immunity level.

5. Report any violations to the proper departments.

Violations of these protocols by students should be reported to the Office of Student Life. Violations involving employees should be reported to the Office of Human Resources. Violations involving visitors or guests should be reported to the Vice President for Student Affairs.

A detailed document that includes all COVID-19 related protocols and procedures is available for your review at https://www.deltastate.edu/covid19/.

I sincerely appreciate your attention to this important message, and ask for your assistance in adhering to the university’s COVID-19 response protocols.

Let’s have an exciting year and promote a safe campus by getting the vaccine and masking up!