COVID-19 campus update

January 11, 2021
Kim Wilcox, Thomas Smith, and Deborah Deas
January 11, 2021

Dear Campus Community:

Since November, California has regularly continued to break new records for most COVID-19 cases reported in a day. The same is true in Riverside County where reported cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are also breaking daily and weekly records while high positivity rates for COVID-19 tests indicate widespread infection. In the Inland Empire, our regional healthcare facilities are under immense strain.

Given the current situation, please stay home whenever possible and continue following health and safety protocols.

In written and video messages during fall quarter, we asked everyone to stay vigilant. Thank you for the work you have done as a community to support our collective health. Today we are writing to also ask that you continue to maintain these practices by adhering to the below while also taking the extra precaution to stay home whenever possible.
•    Stay in place. If your work can be done from home, please continue to stay home. If you have been working on campus occasionally but can work from home, please work from home. During this critical time, we encourage you to not come to campus if you are feeling ill or if it is not necessary. If you are required to be on any UCR campus site, you must complete your daily wellness check
•    Maintain space. Maintain a minimum of 6 feet of distance when in public and follow posted physical distancing guidelines. Remember to wash your hands or sanitize frequently.  
•    Cover your face. When on any UC property, you are required to cover mouth and nose around others or in public.

As the world moves into mass vaccination against COVID-19, we also write to provide information on UC Riverside’s role in the national rollout effort. We are pleased to announce that UCR Student Health Services received 100 vaccine doses last week to immunize front-line healthcare workers. Additional doses for UCR Health personnel are coming soon. A similar process has been unfolding across UCR Health in collaboration with the Riverside County Public Health Department and our affiliated hospitals and clinics for clinical staff who provide direct care to patients in the community.

UCR will strictly adhere to the California Department of Public Health prioritization protocol. Vaccine allocation is primarily managed through counties, so we expect most of our students, faculty, and staff will receive vaccination through their own healthcare providers when it is their turn.

Our state is currently in Phase 1a, which addresses those at highest risk of infection from contact with patients or in nursing homes. As we enter Phase 1b, which includes those employed in a defined set of occupations deemed essential and at-risk, we will receive a modest vaccine allocation. Immunization will be offered to UCR employees who are required to physically perform their work on campus. Individuals required to come to campus work in housing, dining, facilities, steam plant, residential life, police, safety and health, and several other units. Faculty members and TAs who have been approved by the Provost’s office to teach in-person will be included in this tier.

We know some individuals are declining vaccination. UC system leadership is discussing how to accommodate those personal choices, but our highest priority will continue to be protection of all students, faculty, and staff in labs, classrooms, and offices, and anyone required to work on campus. In keeping with that commitment, we will provide education about the risks and benefits of inoculation, may require use of personal protective equipment (respirators/masks and face shields) for unvaccinated individuals, and will use existing performance management systems to ensure individuals are not placing others at risk.

UCR and UCR Health continue to monitor and manage this extraordinarily difficult challenge and look forward to taking part in the national effort toward recovery. We will keep our community apprised as additional details and timelines become known.