Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Our Mayors in Memphis and Shelby County have lifted our Safer at Home restriction with the understanding that all of the safety and social distancing measures to prevent the COVID-19 spread will continue. The Mayors have started a scaled return to business.
UTHSC is now prepared to start our scaled return to activities with the goal of being fully functioning for our academic enterprise for the fall semester. This semester begins in the summer for many of our programs. Our regional campuses will follow the procedures of the county or city where they reside and will abide by the policies and procedures of our partner hospitals. In Memphis, clinical rotations with our partners will follow the rules and guidelines of those institutions.
This resumption of UTHSC activities is accompanied by stringent COVID-19 safety measures. We fully understand that COVID-19 is not eliminated, but is minimized by these safety measures. We expect to maintain these safety measures as the new normal until the disease is controlled. In the absence of a vaccine, this may take some time and we must adjust to the new normal. In the new COVID-19 normal, it remains our expectation that all work that can be done at home will be done at home. Individual supervisors will be making these decisions with assistance from the campus.
CAMPUS AND FACILITIES
Safety measures for all faculty, staff, and students on campus have been announced. These include 6 feet social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the wearing of face masks while on campus. COVID-19 testing for those active or suspected to have the disease, along with direct contacts, will be done and referred to the appropriate health care provider. Screening of the entire campus population is not recommended at this time. COVID-19 antibody testing to determine who has had COVID-19 may be recommended when it becomes available.
All faculty, staff, and students will be required to complete an online COVID-19 education training before returning to campus via Blackboard. An email will be sent early next week with the link to the training.
The ramp up to the new normal for all support services will begin mid-May 2020.
Laboratory Research: UTHSC has developed guidelines for the safe conduct of laboratory research. UTHSC has formed a research reimplementation committee chaired by the Vice Chancellor for Research with all of the college Associate Deans for Research or Deans. Included on this committee are facilities, medical, and safety representatives, as well the Chief Information Officer. This committee will guide the ramp up of the lab research enterprise, as basal lab work, core labs, and the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory continued during the Safer at Home order as essential operations.
We anticipate the phased ramp up of laboratory-based research to begin June 1, 2020.
Clinical Research: Guidelines for the conduct of clinical research will follow University Health Service’s clinic visit protocol. All activities and surveys that can be conducted remotely will be conducted remotely. Individual principal investigators will determine which portions of the research require the participant to come to a study site. These guidelines are linked here.
Studies conducted in our partner facilities will follow the rules and guidelines of the partner institution.
We anticipate a phased ramp up of clinical research starting June 1, 2020.
UTHSC has formed an educational committee composed of the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs and the Associate Deans for Education and Clinical Education from each of the colleges as well as the CIO, facilities, safety, and medical representatives. Working with the college committees, this committee provides oversight for the ramp up of the educational programs.
Didactic Lectures: Will remain online to start the semester and will be adjusted to allow for a move to in-person as the situation dictates.
Labs, Practical Education Experiences, Simulation, and Small Group, Non-Lecture Sessions: Will be conducted with appropriate safeguards and social distancing. The College of Dentistry has piloted these on campus, successfully working with D-4s to complete graduation criteria.
Clinical Activities On Campus: Will begin in a phased manner using clinic visit protocol as developed by University Health Services in conjunction with national accrediting body guidelines and social distancing.
Clinical Activities Off Campus: Will begin in keeping with and following the guidelines of our partner teaching institutions as well as our accrediting bodies. We are prepared to begin these as soon as possible, but hope to be fully up and running by July 1, 2020.
Secure Testing: Will begin using the campus guidelines and policy on social distancing.
We anticipate starting the education ramp up July,1 2020. Clinical rotations at partner institutions could begin sooner.
CLINICAL FACULTY PRACTICES, CLINICAL RESIDENTS AND FELLOWS
These front line care providers are essential and continue working tirelessly to provide patient care. In most cases they never slow down. To them, I express my thanks and gratitude. Each group will define what ramp up adjustments they will make and what timeline they will use.
We appreciate the increased effort required to return us to operation as we enter our new normal. We intend to be fully back in session for the fall semester. The nation and the state need our graduates.
Steve J. Schwab, MD