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Welcome back to UCF. I look forward to an exciting year of academic achievement, innovative research and serving our students to deliver the campus experience that prepares them to be global citizens for the future.As President Cartwright said in his note, our students are fortunate to learn from you and be inspired by you. As we prepare to welcome them back to campus for classes starting Monday as planned, I want to update you further on UCF’s continued response to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.As we have seen across the nation and world, cases of COVID-19 have increased rapidly since the highly transmissible new variant emerged, and cases are expected to continue to rise. As of now, the current wave is predicted to be shorter in duration than previous ones. Initial updates demonstrate that there is reduced risk for severe illness or hospitalization for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted and that many Omicron infections are asymptomatic.We continue to encourage that everyone who can get vaccinated or boosted please do so. Vaccines, including booster shots, are available at no cost at the Student Health Center and at a convenient location near you. For those who are able to be vaccinated, there is no better protection for yourselves and for others.UCF will continue increased cleaning and classroom disinfections, access to hand-sanitizer stations and mask distributions during the spring semester. We will continue to monitor COVID-19, including through wastewater testing and genomic sequencing on campus.Beyond getting vaccinated and boosted, each of us can make a difference in reducing the spread of the virus by taking small precautions, including.Wearing a Well-Fitting Mask: Because Omicron spreads so easily – including among the fully vaccinated and those who have previously had COVID – it is incredibly important to wear a well-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth when you are around others. UCF will be making a limited supply of KN95 masks available to faculty teaching in-person classes, advisors and employees whose roles involve frequent interactions with students or visitors to campus.Testing: Consider getting tested if you may have COVID-19 symptoms. Testing is especially important if you have increased risk factors or severe symptoms. Testing is available to faculty and staff free of charge at Garage A. With the increase in community demand for testing, you should expect a wait time at campus and community testing sites.UCF COVID Line: If you test positive, you must call the UCF COVID Line, 407-823-2509, and follow nurses’ instructions. You must submit a medical release form signed by your health care provider before you return to campus.If you are sick: Do not come to work or other activities if you are feeling sick. The Omicron variant often produces mild or cold-like symptoms. If you have mild or cold-like symptoms, stay home until you are asymptomatic, avoid contact with others as much as possible and wear a well-fitting mask if you must be around others. Consider getting tested if you may have COVID-19 symptoms and especially if you have increased risk factors or severe symptoms, and call the COVID Line if you test positive. If you cannot come to work, you may be allowed to work remotely with your supervisor’s approval.Faculty members can expect an additional message from me later today regarding protocols related to in-person classes, and all supervisors will receive an additional update from Human Resources this week. You also can review UCF’s COVID-19 website for the latest information.As we face the challenge of the new variant, together, we can take precautions that will protect our fellow Knights and our loved ones. Throughout the pandemic, I have seen the compassion and care you have shown for our students and each other. I appreciate that and know you will continue to show that same compassion and care as we encounter additional challenges this year. I thank you for all you will do to protect yourself and our campus community

Michael D. Johnson signatureDr. Michael D. Johnson
Michael D. Johnson, Ph.D.Interim
Provost and Vice President for Academic AffairsTwitter@UCFJohnson