With two weeks until University of Kentucky students return to campus for the spring semester, university officials have released a batch of emails with instructions for return protocols.
UK students will travel back to Lexington amidst a nation and state-wide spike in COVID-19 cases, with many places - including Kentucky - reporting their worst numbers since the start of the pandemic.
Lexington has reported nearly 10,000 additional cases of COVID-19 in the seven weeks since UK students departed campus in November, over half of the city's cases in the previous months of the pandemic combined.
During the fall semester UK students typically accounted for 20 percent of Lexington's new daily cases. The university will utilize the same playbook for the spring as they did in the fall reopening, including requiring testing upon students' return to Lexington for the beginning of classes on Jan. 25.
UK students who are physically coming to campus are required to be tested for COVID-19 upon their return to UK. Entry testing begins on Jan. 14 and students should be tested by Jan. 30.
Kirsten Turner, Vice President for Student Success, sent an email to students detailing the testing process.
UK will offer three on-campus testing locations to students free of charge; the locations have changed from the fall semester, transitioning to indoor sites with the winter weather.
Students can do walk up testing at K-Lair in Haggin Hall or the Blue Box Theatre in the student center; drive-thru testing is available in the Blue Lot of Kroger Field. Students should make an appointment and bring their student ID with them to testing.
According to Turner, students who have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 16 do not have to undergo entry testing, a change from the fall. These students should upload documentation of their positive to UK here.
Students who have received the vaccine should still be tested, since immunity takes time to build up after the dosage.
Turner's email said that UK would continue to utilize wastewater and subgroup testing throughout the semester.
In the fall, data from UK's entry testing led to retesting of 5,000 Greek life students. At the end of the semester wastewater testing led to mandatory tests for residents of U Flats, one of UK's residential housing options.
"UK is making plans for ongoing maintenance testing of students throughout spring 2021. More information on that process will be available soon. Numbers of those who will be tested, as well as the frequency of testing, will change as more members of our campus, including students, are vaccinated over the next several weeks and months," said President Capilouto in a separate emial.
For the thousands of students that live in UK's dorms, returning to campus means registering for a move-in time.
In hopes of accommodating social distancing, UK Housing has - as in the fall - staggered move-in times for the spring semester.
Residence halls open on Friday, Jan. 22 at noon. Returning students should log in to their myUK account, select the My Forms tab and select an appointment time.
Much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccines are now available in the U.S., with two companies - Moderna and Pfizer - under contract to produce doses for the country.
States have had varying success with distributing their doses, with some encountering logistical challenges and others with few citizens willing to receive the vaccine.
Kentucky has been vaccinating primarily healthcare workers and nursing home residents since mid-December.
According to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, they are not ready to move on to the next phase of vaccinations (which prioritizes essential workers) because the city has a higher than normal number of healthcare workers.
With 20,000 healthcare workers in Lexington, LFCHD said they are not ready to begin sign-ups for the next phase.
UK Healthcare is responsible for a large percentage of those healthcare workers; according to an email sent to students by President Eli Capilouto on Jan. 11, over 5,700 frontline UKHC workers have been vaccinated so far. He said he expects the remaining few thousand to be completed in the next several days.
Capilouto said UK is making preparations to vaccinate patients and first responders, as well as faculty and staff.
The university has not said if they will make vaccinations required for students, as they did flu shots in the fall; such a decision would likely be deferred until later, when more vaccines are available and the university can acquire the high number required for its student body.
UK has also been asked to coordinate vaccinations for Fayette County Public Schools.
UK employees and students who have received the vaccine can submit their documentation here.