August 11, 2021
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
I’m so looking forward to greeting you all on campus in the coming days. I can sense the enthusiasm and much of it, I know, is due to the resumption of teaching and learning in the classroom. Of course, we remain concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
While many of you know me from my time as President, and now as your Interim President, I spent most of my career as a public health researcher and professor. I studied biology in college and epidemiology in graduate school. I studied viruses, including how they differ from bacteria, what they do inside the human body, how they mutate, and how vaccines are designed to stimulate our immune systems to defend us in case we become exposed or infected. I also served as dean of UofSC’s Arnold School of Public Health and vice president for research and health sciences, and I currently co-chair the Carolinas (N.C./S.C.) Pandemic Preparedness Task Force and am a trustee of the American Medical Association.
Earlier this year, I was offered an important opportunity to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and I seized it as quickly as I could. It’s also been offered to each of you, and many of you have likewise taken your shots. Like me, you now have a very high level of protection and a very low risk of side effects. My education and experience, along with my assessment of the supporting science in reputable academic journals, assures me that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for my family and for you. I’m encouraged by the fact that many of our students, faculty and staff have already chosen to get vaccinated, and we anticipate those numbers to continue rising as we near the start of the semester.
While vaccination is the surest way to get our lives back to normal, wearing a face
covering and physically distancing in indoor settings can also help reduce the spread
of the virus. In previous communications, I’ve shared with you our COVID-19 safety guidelines. This message provides further details about our plans with respect to safety measures
including testing, and how we plan to encourage vaccination.
We are planning a comprehensive testing plan for students, faculty and staff, informed by the effective public health strategies followed by the university during the Spring 2021 semester. The testing protocol will be comprehensive, and include required testing for statistically valid samples of students, faculty and staff. Similar to last spring, testing will be performed daily and students and employees will receive notifications on weeks they are to be tested. This plan will allow us to determine the positivity rates of groups on campus, tailor more intensive testing to areas of the campus where it’s needed, and help us limit the spread of the virus.
Additional testing will always be supported for you and you will be welcome to receive
a test as often as you wish on a walk-in basis. We will continue to conduct environmental
wastewater monitoring to identify and rapidly respond to locations on campus that
We are also embarking on an even more vigorous vaccination campaign, building on the Garnet and Vaxxed program that was initiated over the summer.
I’m pleased to announce some exciting rewards for Gamecock students, faculty and staff members who are #GarnetAndVaxxed. Members of our Columbia campus community who get vaccinated this fall or who have previously been vaccinated will have the chance to win exciting weekly prizes during the fall semester, including:
- One full and one half in-state tuition discount (for enrolled students)
- Apple Airpods, iPad Minis and Macbooks
- Four tickets (per winner) to home football games, including Carolina vs. Clemson
- Garage parking passes for spring semester (4 student passes; 2 faculty/staff passes)
- Five $1,000 travel grants (for faculty)
- Five $1,000 supply grants (for faculty and staff)
- Five professional association memberships (for faculty)
- $500 bookstore credit
- $250 meal plan cards for students, faculty and staff
- Pop-up events with food prizes
- And more!
It’s necessary to upload your completed vaccination card to MyHealthSpace to be eligible, unless you are vaccinated at the UofSC Center for Health and Well-being, in which case your vaccine status is automatically updated.
As part of our promise to keep you informed as conditions change, we will be publishing the first university dashboard for the fall semester next week, and regularly thereafter. Please continue to visit our COVID-19 site to view the dashboard and for the latest information about our comprehensive testing plan, getting vaccinated and more. The Office of the Provost will be further communicating updated classroom guidance and COVID-19 safety measures to faculty members. As always, our top priority is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our university community.
Together, we’ll keep meeting this challenge – as one Gamecock family.