Letters to the UMB Community

Omicron and UMB

January 06, 2022

Dear UMB Community,

I want to thank you for your resilience, dedication, and commitment as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of you, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has been able to create a safe place for our faculty, staff, and students. Your responsible and professional nature and the policies and protections put in place by the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force have worked and enabled us to safely carry out our important missions. 

Over the past two weeks, the COVID-19 situation has changed.

  • Omicron has become the predominant COVID-19 variant. Evidence indicates that Omicron is highly infectious but that vaccines and boosters have been effective in preventing or lessening the severity of the disease.
  • The vast majority of seriously ill COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a booster. Please verify that your information is up to date in the UMB COVID-19 Management Portal.
  • The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the University of Maryland Medical Center are operating at maximum capacity due to the COVID surge and workforce limitations, with some UMMS facilities operating in crisis mode.
  • The UMB COVID-19 Hotline has reached an unprecedented call volume with the COVID-19 surge. At this time, we ask that only students, faculty, and staff who have recently been on campus (last three days) or who are expected to be on campus within the next 10 days call the hotline if symptomatic or exposed to COVID-19. For other students and employees, please refer to the UMB COVID-19 Hotline Exposure Guide for step-by-step instructions and make a report of any positive COVID-19 results or close contacts/high-risk exposures here.
  • As always, stay home if you are sick and connect with your medical provider. 

In response to these changing conditions, I’ve asked that each dean and vice president make changes to prioritize UMB’s core educational, administrative, research, clinical, and community engagement functions, specifically:

  • Each school should announce its plan for in-person instruction no later than Wednesday, Jan. 12. This plan should include contingencies if the COVID-19 situation changes significantly and note how the school will monitor for and accommodate increased absenteeism due to COVID-19 infections and exposures.
  • Understanding that schools and administrative units have varied duties, I’ve asked that deans and vice presidents fully utilize telework, where effective and appropriate, for employees. 
  • At this time, experiential rotations will continue with appropriate safety measures because these experiences are essential to the educational process.
  • Current research programs may continue but are encouraged to shift to remote research activities where possible. New projects should be carefully evaluated and considered for postponement. This may involve many considerations, including degree completion for graduate students. Consultation with your departmental leadership is encouraged. Susan Buskirk, DM, MS, vice president, chief accountability officer, and institutional official for human subjects research, will continue to communicate with relevant stakeholders regarding any changes in clinical research activities.
  • Community-serving activities also are vital to UMB’s mission and may continue on campus and off campus using appropriate safety measures.

I also am taking steps to make personal testing kits available for our community to use at home. Priority will go to those who will be on campus and those participating in required in-person activities. KN95 masks continue to be available in each school and unit, as well, and are required for use in all indoor locations on campus.

These new measures provide the institution flexibility to focus on students’ needs to graduate on time and to keep essential high-priority services, research, and clinical operations functioning, as well as recognizing personal needs to manage home and caregiving responsibilities.

I appreciate all that you do – and have done – to keep yourself and others safe. I also appreciate your dedication and flexibility as we remain nimble in reacting to changing conditions. Please continue to refer to the UMB COVID-19 Recovery website as a resource for up-to-date information.

I hope that you stay healthy and safe.


Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS



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