Dear faculty, staff, students and residents:
There is a tangible sense of optimism in the air. In December, we took a major step toward defeating COVID-19 as the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on the UT Health San Antonio loading dock. Today, we have administered more than 162,000 vaccines. More than 1/3 of people in Bexar County are fully protected against the virus. Importantly, the majority of us at UT Health San Antonio, 85%, have also been vaccinated.
These are major feats. With this in mind, I am happy to announce that we have entered another phase of this pandemic: one of recovery and returning to a sense of normalcy.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines stating that fully vaccinated people can now resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required. UT Health San Antonio will follow these guidelines and align with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order:
- UT Health San Antonio will maintain a masking mandate for all UT Health clinical areas based on the recommendation of Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner, John Hellerstedt, MD.
- Masks will not be required in non-clinical settings but remain strongly encouraged, especially for those who have not been fully vaccinated and for those who are immunocompromised.
- Learning, labs and office spaces will open at 100% capacity, effective June 1. This includes classrooms, lecture halls and cubicles.
- Drive-up COVID-19 testing facilities will be decommissioned; testing will remain available at Wellness 360.
- On-campus dining will return to normal operations with all tables and chairs available.
- In-person university events will resume.
- Domestic and international business travel will resume July 1.
A complete list of our revised safety protocols can be found here. As has been the case throughout this pandemic, important Frequently Asked Questions, as well as other vital operational and health information, can be viewed anytime by going to the COVID-19 website.
This is a huge step forward for our university and our country; however, we remain ever-vigilant in our fight against COVID-19. As essential workers who serve patients every day – many of whom are among the sickest in our community – we must always prioritize safety. We will remain sensitive to changing conditions and these policies will be modified as necessary following state, federal and local guidelines and will be predicated on local rates of infection, community-based transmission and COVID-19 infections at UT Health San Antonio.
Indeed, there are many reasons to feel optimistic as we embark on this newest phase of the pandemic. Together, we have worked tirelessly to advance the life-saving missions of care, discovery and learning even as we battled this virulent foe. Your resolve, resiliency and commitment were ever at the forefront, and remain so today. It is inspiring to witness.
Let’s continue to do all we can together to defeat COVID-19. Encourage everyone to get a vaccine when able.
With respect and appreciation,
William L. Henrich, MD, MACP
President and Professor of Medicine