COVID-19 on Campus, Booster Requirement, and Testing for Students
| by Mark Peluso, Jeff Cason, and David Provost
Students, Faculty, Staff, Fall 2021, Vaccination Information
Dear Middlebury Community,
In this email we will address:
- COVID-19 on Campus
- Testing Opportunities for Students
- State of the State
- Booster Requirements: February 14 Deadline
COVID-19 on Campus
This afternoon we received confirmation of 10 new cases of COVID-19 on campus, and as of today, there are 12 active student cases and one active employee case. Contact tracing is underway, and anyone who is determined to be a close contact will be informed. While this is the largest number of cases we have reported at any one time during the pandemic, we are prepared—and have protocols in place—for higher incidence of COVID-19. This news was somewhat expected given the current prevalence of the virus in Vermont and New England. It also is a reminder of the continued need for vigilance.
Testing Opportunities for Students
We have expanded COVID-19 testing opportunities for students in recent weeks, and appointments for both symptomatic and asymptomatic students are available on campus. Students who are not experiencing symptoms may make appointments via the Bookings link for Testing at Virtue Field House. Those who are experiencing symptoms, no matter how mild, should avoid any unnecessary interactions with others, wear a well-fitting face covering at all times, and immediately contact Health Services at 802-443-3290 or email@example.com to arrange for testing. Symptomatic students may also schedule tests via their student health portal.
State of the State
We continue to closely follow developments with the Omicron variant, and although this strain of COVID-19 has not been confirmed in Vermont yet, it has been found in at least 18 states including neighboring New York and Massachusetts. State officials expect Omicron will emerge here, but it is still too soon to tell how this variant will affect people. Early indications show the strain is more contagious than earlier forms, but that symptoms may not be as severe for those who are fully vaccinated.
The numbers of new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont and New England remain high, with greater increases following the Thanksgiving holiday. Governor Phil Scott and state officials said at their Tuesday press briefingthat cases are expected to remain high for the next four weeks. They doubled down on their call to eligible Vermonters to secure booster shots. Notably, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine differentiated between those who are fully vaccinated and those who have received boosters, saying only those who received boosters are “fully protected” by vaccines. State officials also encouraged Vermonters to stay home when sick, wear face coverings when in public spaces indoors, get tested for COVID-19 before and after holiday gatherings, and limit holiday gathering sizes to minimize transmission.
Testing appointments for employees are available through healthcare providers, at state run sites, pharmacies, and other locations, and employees are encouraged to schedule ahead of time to ensure availability. State officials have said they hope to introduce rapid testing to the state run sites in the new year, in addition to PCR testing. Plans will be announced at a later date. The state also will begin to roll out opportunities for home testing kits, to coincide with new federal guidelines that call for insurance companies to fully reimburse individuals for such tests. In Vermont, the state will begin by offering this option to commercial insurers, retroactively from December 1. GMHEC let us know today that they are awaiting further guidance and will keep us updated as soon as more information is available.
Please note that individuals with COVID-19 symptoms who have a positive antigen test are considered positive for COVID-19 and a PCR test would not be necessary. Negative antigen tests for individuals with symptoms are not considered sensitive enough at this time to rule out a COVID-19 infection, and a PCR test is recommended. Employees should contact their healthcare provider for more information.
Booster Requirements: February 14 Deadline
Consistent with our COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements policy and evidence that vaccines provide the best protection against all forms of the virus, Middlebury will require all students, faculty, and staff who are eligibleto receive COVID-19 booster shots by February 14, 2022, unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption.
This deadline for booster shots is intended to allow for anyone who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in the summer to be at least six months out from full vaccination and to ensure that our community is fully protected as soon as possible. Individuals who received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may receive their booster two or more months after their initial dose.
Appointments for vaccination and boosters are available through the state, pharmacies, and individual healthcare providers. A list of clinics is available on the Vermont Department of Health website, where individuals may search by town or county. Walk-ins are allowed at the Middlebury clinics for those who are not able to secure an immediate appointment, even if this is not noted on the website. Eligible students are encouraged to secure boosters before their departure from campus, as appointments may be more readily available in Vermont than in other states. Individuals who did not receive their original vaccination in Vermont should call the state Department of Health at 855-722-7878 to secure an appointment. Further instructions are available here.
All students, faculty, and staff should retain a copy of their booster record. Students may upload their record via the Student Health Portal. Employees may upload booster documentation via the SentryMD portal. More information is available on the COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements webpage.
Thank you for all you are doing to keep our community healthy and safe. As always, you can find the latest information on the Campus Status webpage and the COVID-19 reporting dashboard. Previous announcements are posted on the College website. You may write to us with questions at COVIDInfo@middlebury.edu.
Chief Health Officer and College Physician
Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance