The University of South Carolina announced its plan for a full return to face-to-face classes and the resumption of normal campus operations this fall, including residential life and the type of campus activities and events that have established UofSC as the No. 1 public university in the nation for its first-year student experience. . . The university will continue to employ appropriate COVID-19 mitigation strategies, robust on-campus COVID-19 testing and other measures based on up-to-date public health guidelines. . . UofSC was the first public university in South Carolina to announce last spring that it would switch to virtual classes in order to address the burgeoning pandemic. It also was the first to put in place a comprehensive mitigation strategy allowing for a return of students to campus and a mix of face-to-face, hybrid and virtual classes during the 2020-21 academic year. . I want to thank our faculty, staff and students for their flexibility, patience and creativity as weve navigated through this unprecedented time together, said UofSC President Bob Caslen. Our goal from the very beginning was to safely deliver a world class education to students, no matter the challenges. Im excited to see that continue with full face-to-face instruction in the fall, as well as a return to the engaging and vibrant campus environment our university is known for. With the nationwide vaccine rollout expected to accelerate in coming months and many university faculty and staff already eligible to receive vaccinations under the of SC Department of Health and Environmental Controls 1b classification a decrease in transmission is expected throughout the spring and summer. However, university officials will continue to coordinate with public agencies and closely monitor the spread of the virus and its new variant strains. . . The university instituted a mandatory COVID testing program for any student, faculty or staff member who frequents campus this spring. Currently, the positivity rate on campus is 1. 3 percent far below the state and national averages. The university has conducted more than 70,000 tests in 2021 alone. . . While todays announcement is great news, we still have to remain vigilant, Caslen said. As Ive said throughout the pandemic, our ability to return to normal depends on members of our community doing the right things to protect themselves and others. That includes wearing face coverings and getting the vaccine when youre eligible to receive it.