Monday, November 2, 2020

2021 spring semester update

As we prepare for the spring 2021 semester, the University of Iowa continues to take deliberate steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for our students, faculty, and staff, as well as our surrounding community.

Our goal is to provide as much choice and certainty as possible while aligning with guidance from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa; the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH); and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The university will continue to closely monitor cases of COVID-19 throughout the winter and spring semesters and will take action deemed necessary to help mitigate the transmission of the virus.

Academic calendar

As we shared in September, the university has altered the spring calendar, with the spring 2021 semester beginning Jan. 25, 2021 (one week later than originally planned), and ending on May 14, 2021. To reduce long-distance travel and help limit the spread of COVID-19, there will be no spring break. Standard instruction and attendance policies for that week will apply.

However, the university will provide two instructional breaks to give students and faculty a brief respite from instruction. Students are encouraged to use these days to ensure they understand their course materials and seek assistance if necessary. There will be no classes on:

  • Tuesday, March 2
  • Wednesday, April 14

Classroom experience

Classes for the spring 2021 semester will be offered in similar formats as the current fall semester with a blended format that includes online and face-to-face instruction. Adjustments made during the fall 2020 semester will remain in place, in addition to a few minor changes that will allow both instructors and students to better prepare for the spring semester.

  • All instructors have been asked to designate the format of their classes for the spring 2021 semester before students begin enrolling, which will allow students to better plan their class schedule.
  • With a few exceptions, courses enrolling 50 or more students will be moved online. For courses with a lecture/discussion or lecture/lab format, the larger lecture section will move online, while the smaller discussion/lab sections may still meet in person.
  • For classes with fewer than 50 students, each department has developed a plan to ensure there will be a reasonable number of in-person course sections in each college, while still ensuring online sections are available due to COVID-19 health concerns of some students and instructors.
  • University classrooms have been outfitted with additional cameras and audiovisual equipment to enhance the educational experience.

Temporary Alternative Learning Arrangements (TALA)

Students who were verified for a TALA in fall 2020 because they met one or more criteria for populations listed by the CDC as being more vulnerable to COVID-19 will be carried over for winter 2020 and spring 2021 sessions. No additional paperwork needs to be submitted.

Students who are not currently verified but who meet the criteria for populations listed by the CDC as being more vulnerable to COVID-19 may apply for TALA using the form on the TALA web page.

Students who do not already have a TALA in place for the fall 2020 semester but want one for spring must apply by Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, to begin registering for spring 2021 classes on Dec. 1, 2020.

Please note that receiving a TALA does not mean or guarantee that your desired face-to-face courses can be switched to online. Many face-to-face courses have been specifically designed to accommodate in-person learning under COVID-19 guidelines and will not also be online. If you have a TALA and need a specific course that is only offered face-to-face in order to graduate or to maintain your graduation plan, please contact your academic adviser or college/department office to discuss alternative courses or options.

Any student who needs assistance with academic learning arrangements, regardless of a TALA, should work directly with their college and/or academic advisor. Students who have non-academic support needs should contact Student Care and Assistance in the Dean of Students office at For more information, please visit the TALA web page.

Temporary Alternative Work Arrangements (TAWA)

Employees (outside of UI Health Care) who fall into one or more of the high-risk categories identified by the CDC, or who have a household member in one of the high-risk categories, may seek a TAWA for spring 2021. To make a request, please visit this site.

Health and safety measures

Face masks (cloth mask, disposable mask, or face shield with a mask) will continue to be required in all university buildings, including classrooms, unless alone in a private office/space or your residence hall room. Masks should be worn outside when social distancing is not possible.

The city of Iowa City has extended its mask order for all public spaces.

In accordance with CDC guidance, the university, in coordination with Johnson County Public Health, will continue to test symptomatic individuals and asymptomatic individuals with a known COVID-19 exposure.

The university has updated its ventilation system and practices across campus to lower the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and will continue to use filters that help prevent the circulation of bacteria and virus-carrying agents across all campus systems. UI Facilities Management also will continue to purge building air daily, adjust systems while classrooms are occupied to maximize airflow, and make adjustments as needed.

Campus operations, including Housing and Dining, will remain open during the spring 2021 semester to serve those who rely on university services.

Campus operations

The university continues to monitor self-reported COVID-19 testing data on campus, while also tracking state, region, and national COVID-19 infection rates. The increased cases and hospitalizations across the state are beginning to impact Johnson County. There has been a gradual increase in the number of positive cases among students over the past ten days. While data and contact tracing continue to show that the spread of the disease is not occurring in UI classrooms, our campus must remain dedicated to the practices that help to reduce transmission: wearing masks, maintaining social distance, avoiding large gatherings, and frequent hand washing. If necessary, the university will consider additional actions in coordination with Johnson County Public Health, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.

Seven-day rolling average chart for self-reported UI data

University of Iowa self-reported COVID-19 testing

These data reflect new cases since Oct. 30, 2020.

The University of Iowa has published an updated snapshot of self-reported positive COVID-19 tests from faculty, staff, and students.

Number of self-reported cases of COVID-19


  • New cases: 21
  • Semester-to-date: 2,189


  • New cases: 14
  • Semester-to-date: 114

These numbers reflect only self-reported positive or presumed positive COVID-19 tests from UI faculty, staff, and students on the academic campus since Aug. 18, 2020. These data will not match data reported by UI Hospitals & Clinics or by the Iowa Department of Public Health for several reasons, including different testing time intervals and geographic scope. Students who also are employees of the university are only reported in the student number to avoid double counting. The UI has more than 30,000 students and nearly 30,000 employees. Many employees continue to work remotely but have self-reported to authorize sick leave.

Number of residence hall students in quarantine: 2*

Number of residence hall students in self-isolation: 7**

*Quarantine: Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others.

**Self-isolation: Isolation is used to separate people infected with the virus (those who are symptomatic and those with no symptoms) from people who are not infected.

Reminder: Second free student flu shot clinic is tomorrow

Student Health will hold its second free flu vaccine clinic for students Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the River Room of the Iowa Memorial Union.

Please come prepared and keep the following in mind if you plan to attend:

  • You must bring your student ID.
  • Do not attend if you have a fever or any symptoms of illness, or if you've been tested for COVID-19 in the previous 14 days. A health screening will be conducted upon your arrival.
  • Please wear a shirt that has sleeves that can roll up and be prepared to completely expose your upper arm.
  • Wear a face mask and pay attention to signage related to social distancing and line spacing.

For more information, see the Student Health website.