A new academic year has begun and we are excited for what it holds, despite the ongoing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the safety of our students, faculty/staff, alumni and loyal audience members, we continue to strongly encourage the use of face coverings indoors. This aligns with new guidelines from the CDC and SCDHEC. Our venues (SoM Recital Hall, Johnson Hall, and Koger Center For the Arts) have long awaited full capacity seating and we look forward to welcoming you back to South Carolina’s School of Music for exceptional concerts and events. I recently sent this letter in anticipation of the 2021-22 academic year.
Dear School of Music Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our university has prioritized the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. Despite the challenges of the past year, the university persevered together, and with your help, successfully completed the 2020-2021 academic year.
Now, CDC projections for the fall suggest that the recent surges in COVID-19 infection rates will continue. Additionally, the Delta strain of the virus, currently the dominant strain, is more easily transmitted and has already been detected within our campus community.
This is why we must continue to take this virus seriously and work together to reduce its spread by employing scientifically proven mitigation strategies, such as vaccination. In alignment with guidance from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated, if you haven’t already done so, to protect yourself and others. In our community, vaccination not only helps protect each other, but also allows for resumption of in-person class instruction, relaxed mask guidelines and the return of fans to athletic events. Recent studies estimate that vaccination has prevented almost 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone. We also know that more than 97 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 and more than 99.5 percent of people who die from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. It should be noted though, that short of university downloads with respect to housing issues (see below), it is not permitted to inquire of any person their vaccination status, so please do not ask.
SCDHEC now recommends that all South Carolinians, including those who are fully vaccinated, wear face coverings when indoors and in public settings in regions with substantial and high transmission. While the university cannot require anyone to wear face coverings in our buildings, except when in university health care facilities and when utilizing campus public transportation, effective August 3, we continue to strongly encourage the use of face coverings indoors.
Return to Campus COVID-19 Requirements:
- Students residing in UofSC-operated housing, including the Greek Village, must provide proof of one of the following relative to their respective move-in dates:
- a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test conducted no more than 10 days prior to arrival to campus
- proof of prior positive COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days
- a completed COVID-19 vaccination record
- All students residing off campus, faculty and staff must provide proof of one of the following by Wednesday, Aug. 18:
- a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test conducted between Aug. 8 to Aug. 18
- proof of a prior positive COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days
- a completed COVID-19 vaccination record
- The university strongly encourages all students, faculty and staff to get fully vaccinated in order to protect themselves and the community.
- The tracking of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations on campus played a major role in how we navigated the pandemic during the spring and summer this year. The university will continue to offer voluntary free testing to students, faculty and staff throughout the fall semester. See campus COVID-19 Testing for more information. Testing is also available at multiple locations throughout the state. Be sure to check MyHealthSpace to confirm your latest test results are in the system. Also, if you are fully vaccinated and want to have your vaccination completion status on record with the university, please remember to upload a photo of your completed vaccination card or record to MyHealthSpace.
University and School of Music Face Coverings:
- Face coverings will be required in the Center for Health and Well-Being and Thomson Student Health Center. They are also required on shuttles, buses and other forms of university transportation. They will NOT be required, but will be strongly encouraged, in campus buildings and in classes, studios, or rehearsals.
- Because face coverings have been proven effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, we encourage everyone on campus to wear one indoors whenever physical distancing is not possible. If you are not vaccinated, you are strongly encouraged to take this simple step to protect yourself and others.
The UofSC Emergency Management Team will continue regular monitoring of international disease activity and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, US Department of State and others. At this time there are no updates on International travel for faculty or for students.
Isolation and Quarantine:
- Following the most updated guidelines from the CDC and SCDHEC, fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine following exposure to a positive COVID-19 infection if they are not showing any symptoms.
- Unvaccinated individuals are required to quarantine following an exposure to a positive COVID-19 infection, regardless of their symptoms, as per guidelines from the CDC and SCDHEC.
- All students living on campus are required to file a quarantine and isolation plan with Housing and Residence Life. Emergency arrangements will be provided for on-campus students who are unable to quarantine or isolate at home.
- Students, faculty, and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be expected to isolate at home to prevent the spread of illness.
Large Ensemble and Solo Recital Performance Protocols:
- We know that transmission of COVID among wind players, even in ensembles who used no mitigation (masks, covers, distancing, etc.) last spring, has not proven to be likely. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the emission of aerosols from wind instruments is actually less than those emitted when speaking. However, the use of bell covers is a simple way to add another layer of protection in groups, especially when masks are not required, and bell covers will be used, when possible, in all performing groups. Performers’ masks are encouraged for wind players in ensembles and can be provided upon request.
- The following protocols are observed for ensembles of 2 or more musicians: 3-foot spacing between players in accordance with CDC and UofSC guidelines; use of puppy pads for collection of water/condensation; rehearsals will take place in the largest spaces available for their normal scheduled duration.
- For all solo recital performers, masks and bell covers are NOT required but are strongly encouraged.
Event and Activity Approval:
- The UofSC Emergency Management Team is transitioning control of campus events and activities to the Dean and/or Vice President level for approval of all events taking place on August 16, 2021, and later. After 16 August, the Dean of the School of Music will have the authority to determine acceptable crowd sizes and mitigation strategies for persons in those crowds. IT IS THE CURRENT POSITION of the School of Music that all live performance events planned for 2021-22 will take place as planned—the venues, the dates/times, the expected audience sizes and capacity, and the mitigation procedures described above will be observed.
Finally, the health, safety and well-being of every student, faculty and staff member will remain our number one priority. While we cannot predict the impact of the virus this fall, our planning is ongoing and we will make necessary adjustments if conditions change. Please visit our COVID-19 site for the latest information and updates. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the final weeks of summer and I look forward to welcoming you back soon.
Tayloe Harding, Dean
Photo credit: S. Andrews Photography