UA System campuses plan return to in-person classes for fall semester

UA System campuses plan return to in-person classes for fall semester

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The University of Alabama System campuses plan to return to traditional in-person instruction without restrictions on classroom capacity for the Fall 2021 semester.

The announcement from the UA System allows for course planning and registration for Fall 2021 courses to take place as usual in coming weeks.

“The return to normal operations would not be possible without the leadership of our campus presidents – UA President Stuart Bell, UAB President Ray Watts and UAH President Darren Dawson – who have skillfully implemented the health and safety measures recommended by our world-renowned medical experts,” said UA System Chancellor Finis St. John in making the announcement Monday.

The Chancellor cited the work of hundreds of front-line health care staff and their counterparts throughout the System who have worked throughout the pandemic on implementation of the Health and Safety plan.

The UA System Health and Safety Task Force, comprised of public health and infectious disease experts and administrators from the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and UAB Medicine, has made the unified recommendation to the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees in accordance with data, including modeling developed by UAB School of Public Health epidemiologist Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.

Dr. Selwyn Vickers, Dean of the UAB School of Medicine and Chair of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force, said today: “Our models give us confidence in the strong likelihood that we’ll have a safe environment for traditional classrooms and on-campus activities by the fall. Of course, we will continue to make every effort to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Alabama Department of Public Health guidance and make data-driven decisions. If safety concerns arise, we can adjust our plan; the safety of the 110,000 students, faculty and staff of the UA System remains our top priority as it has since our Task Force began its work one year ago when COVID-19 began to emerge.”

While Judd’s projections are based on known COVID cases, vaccinations administered and the projected number of people who have immunity but never received a positive test, the UA System Health and Safety Task Force urges individuals to remain committed to safe practices, such as masking and social distancing, in order to make the model a reality.

Beginning in spring 2020, the UA System Health and Safety Task Force developed a plan for a return to in-person instruction that became a national model for colleges, universities, corporations and non-profit organizations. The strategy, which incorporates masking, social distancing, safety training, symptom tracking, sentinel testing and contact tracing as well as guidelines for activities on- and off-campus, enabled the completion of a full academic year on the three UA System campuses via hybrid, online and socially distanced in-person classes. Per the weekly UA System COVID-19 data dashboard, positive cases continue to drop sharply, significantly ahead of state and national trends.

Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.