Message from the Office of the President: Upcoming testing clinics, vaccine update, and MLK Jr. Concert

January 13, 2021

Dear Twin Cities students, faculty, and staff,

With Spring semester starting in less than a week, I’m writing to provide several updates. Our shared focus on taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 last fall paid off. Our COVID-19 positivity rate was one of the lowest among our Big Ten peers and we had no confirmed cases of transmission in a classroom or research lab. Our sincere appreciation for everything all of you did to make that possible.

We are asking everyone to take these same precautions during Spring semester. Wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer), wear a face mask, maintain physical distancing, and avoid gatherings. While these behaviors seem simple, they will make all of the difference this spring. For complete information on our Spring COVID-19 plan, please review the Spring 2021 guide.

COVID-19 Testing 

COVID-19 testing remains an important part of our approach to public health, and there are many options available as you prepare to return to campus and throughout the spring. We highly encourage anyone who feels they need a test for any reason to get one. Testing will not cost you anything. While the cost of the test may be billed to your insurance company, the University will not charge any individual for a test. Testing opportunities include:

  • The MTest site at RecWell will hold special testing clinics for new and returning students between Friday January 15 and Monday January 18, and again January 22-25. Make an appointment with Boynton.
  • Students and employees who use Boynton as their primary care clinic who need a test at any time can easily use the MTest site at RecWell, which can serve up to 1,000 people each day. Make an appointment with Boynton.
  • There are also more than 250 community test sites across the state.
  • And, of course, Minnesota residents can order an at-home test at any time

Not sure if you should be tested? Watch this brief video for guidance.

Vaccine Distribution 

Some have asked how the University accesses and delivers vaccines for members of our community. The University does not receive vaccines directly from either the manufacturers or the federal government. Instead, states determine how to distribute the vaccine doses released to them by the federal government, and every state is handling things differently. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) sets distribution priorities and releases batches of vaccines. The University identifies potential vaccine recipients based on MDH priorities and requests the necessary doses. MDH may then approve the University’s request and release the doses of vaccine. At that point, the University contacts vaccine recipients and schedules their appointments.

We are all hopeful, but must understand that it will take a while for vaccinations to reach most of us. I understand feeling frustrated and impatient that vaccine distribution is not moving faster, but I know we can together take steps to protect ourselves and others for just a little while longer. The University is committed to following the guidance of MDH and our public health and medical experts to distribute vaccines as safely and quickly as possible.

For more information on the current MDH priority assignments, and the status of the University vaccine efforts, continue to check the vaccine page on our Safe Campus website. This page will be updated frequently with the latest information.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Tribute and Concert

For 40 years, the University has led a concert celebration to mark the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Join us at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 17 to watch the tribute and concert live, including a special recognition of the life of U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who died in July 2020. Spectacular artists from the University and Twin Cities community will perform as, in the words of Congressman Lewis, we envision a “more excellent way forward.” While we can’t be together in person, we can join together virtually in honor of these important civil rights leaders. I hope you will attend.

Even with a challenging start, I am optimistic about the new semester and the new year. I look forward to the start of the Spring semester on Tuesday as we continue our work. We successfully concluded the Fall semester with low COVID-19 positivity rates and significant progress; the approval of BioMADE by the Board of Regents last week set the stage for the University to be a world leader in bioindustrial manufacturing; and, on a very happy note, both the Gopher Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams are ranked number one in the nation, a feat not seen for six years.

I’ll note that 43 years ago today, the State of Minnesota and the world lost former Minneapolis Mayor, U.S. Senator, U.S. Vice President, and our University’s public policy school’s namesake, Hubert Humphrey. He once said, “the greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”

Thank you for your collective friendship, and especially for how we have all come together to keep each other safe and healthy. I appreciate all that you have done, are doing, and will do in the weeks and months ahead.

Be healthy, safe, and well.

With warmest regards,
Joan Gabel