Campus in the middle of fall
view of the middle of campus during the Fall

The University of Louisville has released several key actions and guidelines to ensure a safe return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. UofL has been planning for several scenarios as the path of COVID-19 is still largely unknown. Some details in our plan could still change and we will be agile and pivot again if need be. 

Here are the key actions for the fall semester:

  • Undergraduate classes begin Aug. 17 as scheduled
  • Move-in will be extended throughout multiple days and longer hours to promote physical distancing
  • In-person classes will meet on campus through Weds, Nov. 25, and then will be online-only through finals. Dorms will remain open.
  • Units can offer up to 50% of their courses online, but over 50% of courses will be taught in a hybrid model – both in-person and online.
  • Students may choose to take a fully online schedule, but not all courses will be available in an online-only format.
  • Fall break will continue Oct. 5-6 as planned
  • Both the Fall 2020 and previously-postponed Spring 2020 commencement ceremonies will be held in December. 

Here are the key safety guidelines for students, faculty and staff:

  • All students, faculty and staff must comply with state and federal safety guidelines
  • All members of the campus community must wear masks and practice physical distancing in public areas, including when entering and leaving buildings, classrooms, offices and bathrooms and in classrooms and labs. UofL will provide on washable mask to every employee and student on campus.
  • Flu shots are highly recommended for all students, faculty and staff. The university will provide free flu shots
  • UofL will make testing available to all faculty, students and staff, with emphasis on those displaying COVID-19 symptoms
  • UofL will conduct contact tracing in order to monitor and prevent the spread of infection
  • Floor markings, table arrangements, room density management, sneeze guards, extensive signage and other efforts will be made to support physical distancing throughout campus
  • Physical Plant will enhance cleaning and disinfecting throughout campus
  • The availability of hand sanitizer and disinfection kits will be dramatically increased in classrooms and other high-touch areas like food service.
  • Air flow/fresh outside air exchanges will be increased through buildings where possible.

Safe Return to Work Committee: Control Measures, Testing, Tracing

The Safe Return to Work Committee was charged with establishing the processes and activities that would protect the health of our students, faculty, staff and others on campus. The committee focused on three areas: measures to reduce the risk of incidences and spread of COVID-19, testing and tracing.

The control measures include prevention of incidents by keeping potential carriers away from campus (Elimination); providing services in ways that reduce face-to-face interaction (Substitution Controls); configuring facilities to enhance safety (Engineering Controls); and enforcing proper hygiene and recommended actions to prevent spread (Administrative Controls).

Control measures


  • Do not come to campus/work if ill, quickly identify, test and contact trace symptomatic cases.
  • All employees are expected to check their symptoms daily and may not come to work if they have had any of the following symptoms since their last day at work: Fever of 100.4 or higher; Cough; Shortness of Breath; Sore Throat; Muscle Aches; Chills; Gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, etc., unrelated to an underlying medical condition or pregnancy)
  • Wear a mask  or face covering

Substitution Controls

  • Work from home when possible to reduce office density
  • Modify job duties for staff and student workers when possible
  • Conduct classes in online or hybrid formats to achieve physical distancing in classrooms

Engineering Controls

  • Increase air flow in buildings
  • Maximizing outside air
  • Provide HEPA filters in buildings where possible
  • Consider rearrangement of furniture and remote work to achieve physical distancing when possible

Administrative Controls

  • Enhance cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces
  • Use masks and face coverings
  • Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizers

Daily symptom screening is important, and it is critical to self-isolate, call your doctor or campus health and get tested immediately if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. As a community of care, the most important step we can take is to exercise accountability to one another as Cards; this is our first and most effective approach to keeping the vulnerable people in our community safe and limiting the spread of coronavirus. We must trust one another to do the right thing for the entire community, and we must constantly communicate our expectations of students, faculty and staff.

As faculty, staff and some students return to campus this summer, we will be in a phase of the pandemic characterized by moderate community spread of COVID-19; we expect to be in this phase when the majority of students return in August as well.

As such, the following policies will be in place:

  • Flu shots are highly recommended for all students, staff and faculty in the fall to limit the number of people with COVID-19-like symptoms. Flu shots will not prevent COVID-19 but will limit the number of people who exhibit COVID-19 symptons and will make testing for COVID-19 more efficient and effective. Additionally, flu shots will keep flu patients from overwhelming campus and community health systems, allowing COVID-19 patients access to medical care The university will provide free flu shots, but students and employees may get their shots at their pharmacy or doctor’s office. As a community of care, we expect those without a health concern or religious objection to get flu shots this year to keep the community as healthy as possible.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze
  • Use of hand sanitizer, available at entrances to high touch areas like food service, is expected.
  • Face coverings, such as masks, scarves, bandanas or hijabs that cover mouth and nose are required in all of the following areas: A face covering is required when entering and leaving public spaces to include buildings, bathrooms, classrooms, offices and meeting spaces; face coverings are required in classrooms and labs; face coverings are required in locations that have posted university approved signage that masks are required; face coverings are required in all other public areas—consistent with current CDC guidance where physical distancing from others cannot occur.

The university will provide one washable mask to every employee and student on campus but students, faculty and staff should provide their own backup masks. (Exceptions to required masking possible for health reasons; contact Campus Health for more information).

Additional elements of prevention that the university is taking include:

  • Installation of barriers/sneeze guards in reception areas, food service areas and other high traffic environments with face to face interaction.
  • Physical distancing support including floor markings, table arrangement, room density management, technological solutions for meetings and classes, one-way traffic flow in and through buildings and stairways and extensive signage.
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting throughout campus.
  • Extensive availability of hand sanitizer and disinfection kits for classrooms.
  • Increased air flow/fresh outside air exchanges through buildings where possible.
  • Limitations on campus visitors (such as in the libraries and the SAC) and logging of visitors to campus offices for contact tracing purposes.


UofL is making testing available for COVID-19 for its student body, faculty and staff. UofL has ample testing capacity, and our strategy is to focus on those with COVID-19 symptoms and those who may have been exposed to people with COVID-19. Anyone who is concerned they may have COVID-19 or may have been in contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19 should contact Campus Health immediately to get advice on isolation and testing.

Contact tracing will continue to be conducted to identify people who need to isolate and get tested. A 15-minute test is available in our Campus Health Center, and people may also get tested by getting in touch with their preferred health care provider.

UofL also will be monitoring coronavirus infection rates in the community, and if warranted due to increasing infection levels, we will implement randomized, broad-based testing to identify, isolate and trace in order to limit infections and spread of the disease. The current rate of infection in metro Louisville continues to be low at < 1%.

Contact Tracing

UofL will continue to conduct contact tracing in combination with its testing program to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community, as it has done throughout the pandemic. Contact tracing will be done by people trained and qualified to conduct tracing and in coordination with our local health department.

With rapid testing, robust tracing, and multiple and different types of control measures, we can return to campus and maintain a safe environment for living, learning and creating.

Academic scenario planning

The Academic Scenario Planning Committee has agreed to the following parameters for fall academic programs but know that these “decisions” could change if the governor or the CDC or the course of the virus requires them to; they could also change in response to campus feedback about how to do things better.

  • On-time start on Aug. 17 (for undergraduate students and most graduate students; professional students should check with their programs for their start dates) but early end to face-to-face instruction, which will conclude on Nov. 25, at the start of Thanksgiving break.
  • The final two days of classes post-Thanksgiving (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1) and final assessments and exams will be online.
  • Students may stay or return to campus housing for the remainder of the term, and the library and SAC will remain open for students to study and access wifi and other essential resources.
  • Students will have remote access to advising, necessary student services such as the Writing Center and REACH and their faculty from Thanksgiving to the end of finals.
  • Graduate students should plan on continuing their research, creative activity and service or teaching duties through the end of the semester in accordance with the university’s safe return to work policies and following the EVPRI’s protocols for reducing COVID-19 exposure in the research environment.
  • The University is still planning to host both May 2020 and December 2020 commencement ceremonies in December.

Other calendar issues

  • Derby is expected to take place Sept. 5, with Thurby and the Oaks Sept. 3-4. Sept. 3-4 will be online instruction days (not vacation days) in order to accommodate possible traffic and parking issues for faculty, staff and students.
  • The ASPC recommends keeping the Fall Break as scheduled. After much discussion with students and feedback through forums and the COVID-19 website, the committee was persuaded that students need the break in October to catch up on work and that physical plant needs the long break to do a mid-semester deep-cleaning of campus facilities. Student Affairs, SGA and the Provost’s office are committed to providing free “Student Well-being” and “Healthy Campus” events during Fall Break to encourage students to stay on campus and recharge for the remainder of the semester.

Scheduling concerns and course delivery options

No unit with undergraduate programs may offer more than 50% of its portfolio of fall courses as totally online courses. Online courses will be designated on the schedule of classes as either DE (Distance Ed, 100% digital instruction with no designated meeting times except possibly for exams) or RT (Remote, 100% instruction with synchronous sessions available at the time and days designated in the schedule; faculty are encouraged to record all sessions for possible asynchronous participation).

At least 50% of a unit’s courses should be taught as hybrid courses, noted on the schedule of classes as HY and defined as having 25%-75% of the course taught face-to-face, with the remaining taught online. For example, for a course requiring 44 contact hours, the minimum for face-to-face interactions translates to 11 contact hours; SACSCOC also suggests that for every contact hour, students should be expected to spend 2 additional hours outside of class learning the material, working on projects or assessments.

Students who wish to take a fully online course schedule for Fall should be able to do so. Faculty may choose to allow students to complete some hybrid courses fully online, but not all courses may be available in an online-only format.

Special consideration should be given to providing face-to-face experiences for first-year students; units must make sure not to schedule all sections of first-year courses as online courses to allow students to select hybrid courses if they wish.

Decisions about course options (whether a course is hybrid or online only) must be made by July 1 and entered clearly in the schedule of courses to allow students opportunity to switch courses.

  • Units should consider dropping some low-enrollment electives from their calendar of courses and shifting faculty to offer more sections of required courses and courses for first-year and second-year students (including Cardinal Core options). Special consideration should also be given, when possible, to courses necessary for students planning to finish in the fall.
  • We encourage faculty to provide required assignments online and record lectures or class discussions to post so those unable to attend may make up the work. We know this is an additional burden for faculty, but continuity of instruction includes making sure students have continuity of learning.
  • Professional programs may seek variances from these guidelines due to accrediting requirements, the need to accommodate pedagogical or clinical approaches specific to particular disciplines, and so on.

Hybrid course delivery was chosen because it combines traditional face-to-face instructional activities with some online learning activities and can capture the best features of both when well-planned and well-executed. It also allows faculty to divide students into smaller groups for face-to-face learning to gain greater physical distancing in the classroom. Additionally, while we are planning to be on campus until Thanksgiving, should we be unable to continue face-to-face instruction at some point earlier in the semester, the hybrid model prepares both faculty and students to transition to online learning in a thoughtful way. Hybrid also allows faculty to provide continuity of instruction if the faculty member gets ill and students continuity of learning if someone should be ill for several days or must quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.

Additional information, including faculty concerns, modifications to fall teaching schedules, staff concerns, graduate student concerns and more, is available online here

More information will be available soon regarding plans specific to HR policies, reopening of facilities and enhanced safety efforts.  

The pivot to fall plan continues to be a work in progress, and we will continue to respond to the guidance of our public health officials and the governor of Kentucky, the latest science, advice from our researchers and faculty working on COVID-19 and input from our employees and students.