Essential activities only order lifted

by Shelbi Voss

On Monday the campus community received an email notification from Chancellor Robert J. Jones regarding the essential activities only order that was set at the start of the Spring 2021 semester. Students were asked to limit in-person activities to necessary interactions including grocery shopping, getting COVID-19 tests, seeking medical attention and attending religious services. As of yesterday, the order was lifted, allowing for increased in-person activities, so long as safety protocols are in place.

While Jones’ email recognized that connecting with others is an important part of the university experience, he emphasized the importance of remaining cautious in order to avoid surges in the campus positivity rate. Students who break protocols by having large gatherings are at risk for university discipline and forcing the university to enact another essential activities order. “I do not want this. You do not want this. Please help me in encouraging your friends and peers to continue to be vigilant,” Jones said.

Vigilance has been a theme of Jones’ emails throughout the early weeks of the semester. On January 26 the campus community received an email asking for “care and vigilance” due to concerns about a spike in infections, including new variants of the virus. Students were notified that failing to comply with university rules could result in a loss of access to university Wi-Fi, Zoom, Compass 2G and other technologies.

These requests for care have been written amid an early vaccination period for a limited number of students and faculty members. In-person university employees have had the opportunity to sign up for vaccination appointments. But even so, Jones has stressed the importance of the entire community continuing to practice safety measures. Referencing the great impact that vaccines could have on the campus, Jones said, “We have come this far together. Please do not let up now when we finally have an end in sight” in a January 26 email.

In order to encourage safe interactions, Jones noted that the university is planning events for students as well as providing guidance on how to plan safe events on their own. Jones closed the email with a hopeful message, anticipating the pandemic nearing an end. He said, “Please help me in being diligent until this pandemic is just a memory for us all. I am counting on you all to help me and to help one another.”