Message to the Mercer Community from President Underwood

August 12, 2021

Mercer Community,

We have been hard at work this summer preparing our campuses for the return of students later this month. Renovations have begun on a number of our facilities since students left for the summer, including Swilley Library in Atlanta and Wiggs Hall in Macon. We have completed the new intramural athletics complex in Macon, a new residential/retail complex in Atlanta, and are nearing completion of the new School of Medicine campus in Columbus. We’re also preparing for record enrollment in the fall. These are exciting times at Mercer.

Of course, we continue to monitor COVID-19 developments. We are especially grateful for the large number of faculty, staff and students who have taken necessary steps toward being fully vaccinated. My expectation is that the number of vaccinated employees will exceed 90% by the time the fall semester is underway. Our students, likewise, are making progress. Our goal is to have more than 80% of our students fully vaccinated or at least with the first dose of the vaccine by early in the fall semester. With higher vaccination rates and consequently lower infection rates on Mercer campuses, we can participate in many University activities with few restrictions.

Hospital reports indicate that it is almost exclusively unvaccinated people who are occupying our ICUs and requiring ventilators. Students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated to protect themselves, and perhaps more importantly, to protect their neighbors and loved ones. Please get vaccinated. Our Campus Health Centers in Macon and Atlanta offer the free, effective and safe vaccines.

Those of you who are unvaccinated will face a growing array of restrictions on your activities imposed by government authorities as well as private enterprises and institutions. Your ability to travel to an expanding list of destinations will be barred or restricted if you are unvaccinated. Likewise, a small but growing number of restaurants and entertainment venues are requiring proof of vaccination. Some employers and internship providers are requiring vaccinations. This list of restrictions is growing daily, and restrictions for unvaccinated individuals will likely expand once the FDA inevitably gives final approval to one or more of the available vaccines in the weeks ahead.

We will be monitoring conditions on our campuses closely throughout the semester. My hope is that surveillance testing will not be necessary for the entirety of the fall semester, but at the start we will conduct extensive surveillance testing of unvaccinated students and employees. I encourage you to review our full vaccination and mask policy on the University’s COVID website. The answer to whether and what changes to this policy will be necessary will be driven by conditions on our campuses and the needs of individual programs. Please continue to check COVID website for updates.

We’re looking forward to the return of our students. We’re planning on a great year – hopefully a year where concerns about the resurgence of COVID -19 over the past few weeks fade quickly into the background. Let’s all pull together to make that happen.