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Provost Anthony Wutoh Welcomes the Community to the Fall Semester

Aerial photo of Howard University's campus with lakeDear Howard University Community,

Welcome to the Fall 2020 semester! As we prepare to begin the academic year for our undergraduate, graduate, and many professional programs, I want to thank each of you for your patience, diligence, and perseverance as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be a most unusual semester as the vast majority of our undergraduate programs, as well as many graduate and professional programs, will be entirely online. Our medical students in clinical sites have already started clinical rotations. Our faculty and staff have been diligently preparing for this format of instruction over the summer. Over 800 of our faculty are now Blackboard or online certified, with over 200 faculty participating in the certification process currently. Additionally, we have obtained additional software to provide remote access to students, faculty and staff, as well as continued to strengthen the University’s wireless network to handle the additional online traffic. On campus, our facilities team has been posting new signage, installing plexiglass barriers in many locations and implementing an enhanced cleaning regimen to support healthy environments.

For the members of our community who will be on campus in the health professional programs and other designated areas, and faculty, students, and staff who are returning to campus, we have implemented mandatory COVID-19 testing. We will provide a weekly update to the community regarding the results of the testing and updated positivity rate at the University. This week we conducted COVID-19 testing for health professional students, faculty and staff. Next week, we will expand testing to non-health professional students and employees. Testing will take place in the Numa Adams Building Lobby, Room 1008, College of Medicine, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. daily, without required appointments. We expect that the internal lab will be fully operational in the coming week and anticipate results will be available within a 24-hour turnaround. Re-testing and screening will occur at a frequency determined by health professionals based on health indicators designed to measure the prevalence of the virus on campus or in the geographic region.

While we have largely closed our residence halls to maintain safety and health, any students in the Axis will be tested on a weekly basis going forward. We will also be conducting daily screenings of everyone on campus, utilizing a mobile phone app. Each member of our community who will be on campus must present with a negative COVID-19 test, be tested on campus at the site we have established and complete the required training available online. A simple decision tree graphic is available here and outlines the steps necessary prior to returning to campus.

The District of Columbia has approved our revised Re-opening Plan which is available here. The plan outlines our responsibilities and safety measures that are being implemented to prioritize the health and safety of our community. Additionally, it includes the Bison Pledge, which highlights the individual responsibilities that our students share to maintain a safe and healthy environment both on campus, and in the broader community. We encourage everyone to read the plan, be familiar with the contents, and adhere to the expectations to social distance, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask or face covering in public settings, and protect other members of our community.

We are acutely aware that these are very stressful times for our faculty, students and staff. We know that the uncertainty and rapidly changing dynamics of the pandemic can exacerbate mental health challenges. We encourage everyone to seek support when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and also take positive steps to address feelings of anxiety or depression. If you would like to access mental health services, additional counselors are available in the University Counseling Center and can be reached at 202-806-6870 (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.). The after-hour crisis line is 202-345-6709 (available after 6 p.m.). The student telehealth mental health provider is "BetterHelp." Please contact them at telehealth4students.com or by phone at 855-870-5858.

Cigna is offering free telephonic consultation for anyone who is coping with stress. Any member of the community can contact Cigna's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) support line by calling 1-866-912-1687. The line is staffed 24 hours a day, every day, for consultation with a behavioral health clinician. These trained professionals are available to speak with people about how to cope with loss, anxiety, stress, fear or other issues related to recent events in the community. 

Optum also provides an Emotional-Support Help Line providing access to specially trained mental health specialists to support people who may be experiencing anxiety or stress around COVID-19. Optum’s toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge and open to anyone.

As a Howard University community, we are proud of the achievements of Senator Kamala Harris and congratulate her on her appointment as the first African American woman to serve as the Vice Presidential nominee for a major political party, the first Asian American to serve in this capacity, the first HBCU graduate, and of course, the first Howard University alumna in this role! In the period leading up to the November presidential election, we are aware of a number of demonstrations and protests that are being planned to be held in DC. We encourage everyone to continue to adhere to the public health measures to protect yourself and the other members of our community. The reckoning of systemic racism that we are experiencing in this country further highlights the continued importance of Howard University, and our mission to provide an educational experience of exceptional quality to our students, with emphasis on educational opportunities for Black students.

Please continue to be safe and adhere to the social distancing and other public health guidelines to assure your health and safety, and that of the entire Howard University Community. Thank you.

Excellence in Truth and Service,

Anthony K. Wutoh, Ph.D., R.Ph.
Provost and Chief Academic Officer