UNA plans for fall amid state mandate changes


Ellen McDonald, Managing Editor

The COVID-19 Recovery Task Force announced in an email sent on March 3, that the University of North Alabama would be returning to mostly in-person instruction for Fall 2021.

This was decided during their meeting for the week of Feb. 22. 

“We hope the addition of this language will assist the University community and prospective students in planning for the fall semester,” said Student Affairs in the email. “While acknowledging that the pandemic has not yet abated, with vaccines more widely available and the current decline in COVID-19 cases nationally, it is prudent to plan for the future while still abiding by health and safety guidelines.” 

Student Affairs added that as UNA continues to monitor the pandemic, careful and matriculated planning is essential for a safe and gradual return to mostly in-person instruction. 

“Current forecasts and the expanding availability of coronavirus vaccine doses are behind the plans to return to a more normal on-campus experience in the fall that will allow students to enjoy experiential learning, campus life and community engagement opportunities,” said Student Affairs. 

The deadline for completion of class schedules for the fall semester is March 12. The CRTF is hopeful that their early planning will allow department chairs to plan course offerings and meet the assigned deadline. 

Class registration for students will start on March 29. 

“At this point we do not anticipate changes to the Fall 2021 academic calendar,” said Student Affairs. “Classes will begin as scheduled on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.”

Any changes to the fall calendar will be clearly communicated to the entire UNA community.

Student Affairs went on to stress the importance of remaining vigilant in all COVID-19 guidelines and precautions on campus. 

“Appropriate physical distancing, facial coverings, hand washing and sanitation protocols per the ADPH and CDC COVID-19 guidelines, remain critical as ever,” said Student Affairs. “All faculty, staff, and students must continue to observe established protocols, including the required use of the Guide-Safe health-screening app.” 

Additional guidance for the 2021-2022 academic year will be sent out later by Student Affairs. 

After this announcement, questions regarding Governor Ivey’s anticipated statement on the mask mandate were received by Student Affairs. 

The state’s mask order and other health precautions were set to expire on March 8. Ivey announced on March 4 that she will be extending the “Safer at Home” order by 60 days, but it will expire after that.

The announcement comes just days after both Texas and Miss. announced the lifting of their mask mandates.

President Biden referred to this decision as a “big mistake.”

“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” said Biden to reporters at the White House on March 4. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms… the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking…” 

Biden added that it is critical that state leaders believe in the science behind stopping the spread of the virus and that all Americans continue to wear masks and follow public health guidelines.

“Let me be abundantly clear, after April 9, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” said Ivey. “While I’m convinced a mask mandate has been the right thing to do, I also respect those who object and believe this was a step too far in government overreach.” 

Ivey extended the mandate in order to give businesses enough time to institute their own policies. She urged residents to continue to wear their masks, even after the state no longer requires them.

According to the order, senior citizens will be allowed to resume activities outside, and nursing homes and hospitals will be allowed to welcome visitors. 

Ivey made note of the state’s hospitals reporting a 77% drop in their weekly average number of daily COVID-19 patients. 

Ivey stated that while “Alabama is heading in the right direction,” this extension will give many residents a chance to receive their first dosage of the vaccine. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ala. received 1,556,460 vaccines and 1,064,578 vaccines have been administered thus far. Nearly 14% of residents have received their first dosage of the vaccine. 

Student Affairs stated in their email sent before Ivey’s announcement that UNA will continue to require face coverings for the time being.