December 22, 2021

Dear Members of the University Community,

If you’ve been following the news, you know that the fast spread of the Omicron strain has changed the COVID-19 landscape. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently reinstated the indoor mask mandate and several other measures to combat the new surge in cases.

In addition, the DC Council appears to be moving toward approving a bill that would require COVID-19 vaccinations for students in the District, including our University. The bill would require our students to be immunized against COVID-19 as they are against a number of other communicable diseases.

We are closely monitoring the spread of the new variant, and the updated regulations and guidelines from the District. We do not currently expect to adjust the academic calendar. Students should expect to return to campus on schedule, and we will do all we can to have a spring break this year. If the Omicron strain continues to spread rapidly, we will consider beginning classes online. We will make a decision by Jan. 4 and communicate more details as we have more information.

All students, regardless of vaccination status, should take a COVID test three days before returning to campus. There is not a requirement to submit results to the University, but any student who tests positive (via testing over the semester break) should submit their results to the Dean of Students (

For those who have not yet been vaccinated, please consider the wisdom of that course for yourself and those around you. And for those who have not yet gotten a vaccine booster, I encourage you to do so. It is the single best strategy to get us off to a solid start this spring.

Fall 2021
Despite the sudden surge of the Omicron variant, we can be proud of the successful fall semester we are about to conclude. In many ways our campus looked like it did before COVID. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me about how happy they were to see students on campus in greater numbers.

My favorite part of the semester was walking across campus and seeing small groups of students meeting for class under a tree, or on the University Mall. This gave both students and professors an occasional change of pace from the classroom. The weather has been unusually cooperative.

Since August we have conducted more than 11,750 COVID tests, and our positivity rate for the semester is 0.74%. Our indoor mask requirement was a factor in keeping the rate down, as was the work our Facilities team did to sanitize high-touch areas and provide face shields and plexiglass barriers to those who requested them. Thanks to all of our professors, staff, and students for your effort and patience.

Our student vaccination rate is just below 87%. Faculty and staff are vaccinated at even higher rates – nearly 98% according to a survey we conducted earlier this semester. The University has been working toward compliance with Executive Order 14042; it requires all employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

You may be aware that there is a legal challenge to that Executive Order. The federal government will not enforce the Order until the challenge is resolved. We are suspending enforcement of the faculty and staff vaccine mandate at this time, but we ask employees to continue to verify their vaccination status with Human Resources.

Below you will find the elements of our plan to keep Catholic University safe this Spring. I want to emphasize that our ability to open and remain open depends on our shared commitment to Keep Catholic Safe. We expect everyone to follow our Shared Community Responsibilities regardless of vaccination status.

Since Thanksgiving break we have had 69 new cases of COVID-19. Fortunately the cases were mild, and they came at the end of the semester. The lesson is that COVID continues to challenge us, and we need to remain vigilant.


John Garvey