COVID-19 Prevalence on Campus and Thanksgiving Preparations
Dear Middlebury Community,
We are writing with some updates about the prevalence of COVID-19 on our campus and in Vermont, and preparations for the Thanksgiving break.
In this email we will address:
- New Positive Cases on Campus
- State of the State
- COVID-19 Booster Eligibility
- Safe Departure from Campus Website
- Pre-Break Registration and Post-Break Requirements for Students
- Tips for Minimizing Exposure and Transmission
- International Travel Guidance
- COVID-19 Testing for Students
- Staying Informed
New Positive Cases on Campus
We received confirmation today that three students have tested positive for COVID-19, and now have a total of four active cases on campus, including one staff member. Contact tracing is underway, and close contacts will be notified if quarantine and/or testing is required. These new cases are reflected on the COVID-19 reporting dashboard, and we will report any additional positive results daily as we receive them.
We often are asked what constitutes a close contact, and why some individuals are not identified as such even though they interacted with someone who tested positive. Please keep in mind that being in the same room with another individual does not necessarily mean you have been in close contact with them. To date, for example, there have been no documented student to faculty classroom transmissions in Vermont and at NESCAC colleges and universities.
Individuals who are not deemed close contacts by the contact tracers always have the option of being tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Vermont Department of Health have recommended testing five to seven days after any exposure to COVID-19 for fully vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals.
Unvaccinated, asymptomatic individuals who are close contacts must quarantine for 14 days or until they receive negative Day 0 and Day 7 PCR test results. Symptomatic students should self-isolate and schedule a COVID-19 test at Health Services in their Student Health Portal. In the health portal, students may go to the drop-down menu in the top right to select an appointment for “symptomatic” testing. Students without symptoms who want to schedule a test prior to travel for break may do so through bookings. Students experiencing symptoms after business hours must quarantine in their rooms, contact TimelyCare, and then call Health Services on the next business day at 802-443-3290 to schedule testing.
Employees who are close contacts or who experience symptoms can schedule a test through the Vermont Department of Health website or through their healthcare provider.
Students who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the upcoming break are asked to delay their return to campus and self-isolate at their location until they have a negative PCR test. Additional information about what to do in the event of a COVID-19 illness or exposure during the Thanksgiving break is available here.
Keep in mind that vaccinations, indoor mask use, and avoiding crowds and large gatherings are the best mitigation measures available to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
State of the State
The occurrence of cases on our campus is expected given the higher prevalence of COVID-19 in Vermont, but also a reminder of the importance of taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Governor Phil Scott and state officials announced at their Tuesday press briefing that the number of cases increased by 16 percent over the previous seven days. This is a much smaller increase than in the previous week, but cases have increased by 64 percent over the last month, in all age groups. The number of cases reported on Thursday, November 11 was at an all-time high of 591, and 245 cases were reported today. Officials said they expect case numbers to continue to be high for the foreseeable future, noting that the number of cases of COVID-19 nationwide has increased 11 percent over the past seven days.
As of this week in Vermont, the percentage of eligible vaccinated individuals ages 5 and older with at least one dose is 81 percent and 74 percent of individuals ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated. Officials urged parents to help their children get vaccinated as the age group of 5-11 year olds has the highest number of cases in the state. More information about the vaccine for children is available on the Vermont Department of Health website. Appointments can be made at state clinics, local pharmacies, or with children’s healthcare providers. Walk-ins also are welcome at state run clinics.
COVID-19 Booster Eligibility
Today Governor Scott implemented a Universal Booster Program for COVID-19 vaccinations and is strongly encouraging every Vermonter over the age of 18 to get a booster. Officials cited the high booster rate among those aged 65 years and older as the reason for a drop in cases in this age group—the only group to experience a decrease.
Appointments are available through the state, pharmacies, and individual healthcare providers. More information is available on the Vermont Department of Health website.
Safe Departure from Campus Website
In preparation for the departure of most students from campus for the Thanksgiving break, we have created a Safe Departure from Campus website with a checklist, information about our COVID-19 testing for students, instructions for those traveling to locations with special requirements, and advice for enjoying time together. We recommend similar measures for faculty and staff as you prepare for the holiday break.
Pre-Break Registration and Post-Break Requirements for Students
COVID-19 information and requirements for students returning to campus after Thanksgiving break are available in a previous announcement. Students who have registered to remain on campus over break but instead wish to depart after having read this information should notify us by completing this brief form by 11:59 p.m. tonight.
Tips for Minimizing Exposure and Transmission
There are many steps we can take to minimize exposure before seeing loved ones or departing campus, in addition to the required protocols on campus. Avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent disruption to travel plans or other activities on campus.
Following are some important guidelines:
- Wear face coverings when around others (even those you live with).
- Avoid locations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain or where face coverings will be removed (for example, when eating or drinking).
- Utilize takeout dining options and limit indoor dining with others. If you eat with others, choose outdoor locations or ensure strict physical distancing is maintained. Try to limit the time you are indoors with others while face coverings are removed.
- Use good hand hygiene.
International Travel Guidance
The Biden Administration has released additional guidance for international air travel. The international air travel policy requires foreign national travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated. As of November 8, “non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S., with only limited exceptions,” the White House announced. The travel guidelines also include new testing requirements. In particular, unvaccinated travelers will be required to provide a negative test within one day of departure. Previously, all travelers were required to produce a negative result within three days of travel. More information is available in the White House fact sheet on international air travel.
COVID-19 Testing for Students
We will offer COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students on the following dates at Virtue Field House:
- Thursday, November 18, from noon to 3 p.m.
- Monday, November 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Note that the last day of pre-travel asymptomatic testing is Monday, November 22, and advanced sign-up for testing is required. It typically takes up to 48 hours for results to be received.
We will also offer testing for the following two days after break:
- Monday, November 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Tuesday, November 30, from noon to 3 p.m.
Students must sign up in advance by using this link to book a testing appointment. Appointments may be scheduled 10 days in advance of the testing date.
Faculty and staff may sign up for appointments through the state Department of Health, their healthcare provider, or local pharmacies. More information is available in a previous update.
Finally, note that due to the Thanksgiving holiday break, there will be no COVID-19 office hours on Wednesday, Nov. 24. Office hours will resume on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Please plan to check your email regularly during the break to stay current with new potential COVID-19 protocols. As always, we are closely monitoring the situation in the state and the county. We do not anticipate any changes in our COVID-19 protocols at this time, but if we do need to make adjustments, we will communicate those to the community via email.
Chief Health Officer and College Physician
Vice President for Student Affairs