Monday, Jan. 11, 2021

Dear UNT faculty and staff,

The turn of a new year always brings fresh beginnings filled with hope and anticipation. Optimistic eyes turn to our year ahead as we start the Spring 2021 semester this week. We saw the start of immunizations at the end of 2020, and COVID-19 vaccines continue to trickle into the population. We are so incredibly close to enjoying a full return. Now is not the time to relax, rather it is time to remain as vigilant as ever while case numbers around the country continue to rise and hospitals strain to keep up.

Our COVID-19 testing and safety guidelines had a positive impact and allowed us to keep our campus open in the fall. As we return to campus now, we will continue to help keep our UNT community safe and healthy while still providing the best student experience possible during these challenging times. It will remain incredibly important for each of us to continue to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and wash your hands often.

Faculty and staff also are strongly encouraged to get a COVID-19 test before returning to campus - or as soon as possible after returning. We are strongly encouraging our students to get tested as well. To register for testing being administered daily by WellHealth at the Union Circle Garage, visit; and follow the “Book Now" link on the map's Denton location (labeled "Denton - UNT Union Circle Garage - Texas Emergency Management"). Include the group code "UNT" so positive test results can be sent directly to UNT's COVID response team. The WellHealth testing, available for no individual out-of-pocket cost, is offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, except on holidays.

The ability to test and isolate asymptomatic carriers of the virus has proven to be crucial in mitigating spread and keeping our community safe. We can begin to find a sense of normalcy with proper precautions and safety protocols in place, while we await broader vaccine availability.

While the vaccination process across the country has moved much slower than we would like, UNT is working diligently with the state to become an approved administrator of COVID-19 vaccines. But we do not yet know when or how many vaccines we might get for our campus, so please work with your physician or vaccine provider in your area to obtain the vaccine when it becomes available for your eligible phase. I know there are questions about how higher education employees will be prioritized in the distribution. We are currently awaiting guidance from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. I encourage all of you to keep an eye on the Denton County Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine website for the latest information and availability.

I am confident in our safety protocols and the incredible individuals across our UNT community who have made returning to campus possible. We have pulled together over the last year and taken advantage of the brilliant minds who call UNT home to create new paths to safely deliver the vitally important in-person experiences our students deserve. Reopening campus has worked because of careful planning and because of your caution and care for one another.

Stay safe,

Neal Smatresk
UNT President