COVID-19 Updates: New Variant, Boosters, and Testing for Students
Dear Middlebury Community,
We are writing with some updates about the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, booster shots, pre-break planning, and opportunities for students to be tested on campus.
In this email we will address:
- Omicron Variant and Vermont Guidance
- COVID-19 Boosters
- Health and Safety Precautions
- Testing Opportunities for Students
- Employee Testing Resources
Omicron Variant and Vermont Guidance
With news of the emerging Omicron variant last week, we are closely following developments and monitoring advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Vermont Department of Health. While it is too soon to tell whether the virus is more contagious and/or virulent than the Delta variant, federal and state officials are strongly recommending COVID-19 vaccination and boosters as the best protection against all forms of the virus.
State officials encouraged Vermonters to double down on prevention measures, including vaccination and boosters, wearing face coverings when in public spaces indoors, getting tested before and after gatherings, and avoiding crowds. Governor Phil Scott and state officials announced at their Tuesday press briefing that the number of reported cases of COVID-19 decreased in Vermont and New England over the previous seven days, likely due to a drop in the rate of testing on and around the Thanksgiving holiday. They expect that the number of cases will increase again in coming weeks as more people receive results of tests taken after holiday gatherings. Vermont leads the nation in the rate of those who have secured booster shots, and the latest data shows that those who are fully vaccinated with boosters have much greater protection against the worst effects of the virus than those who are not fully vaccinated.
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.
All students, faculty, and staff should retain a copy of their booster record. Students may upload their record via the Student Health Portal. More information about employee booster verification and uploading records will be provided at a later time.
State officials again urged parents to help their children get vaccinated, as the 5-11 year old age group continues to have 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.
Health and Safety Precautions
We encourage students to take advantage of our weekday testing opportunities on campus, and recommend that all students, faculty, and staff plan to get tested for COVID-19 before and after the upcoming winter recess.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Vermont Department of Health recommend 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 7 PCR test results.
Following are some additional health guidelines:
- Self-isolate and sign up for a PCR test if you are having even mild cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Wear a well-fitted face covering indoors and avoid crowded gatherings.
- Get a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as you are eligible, and consider doing so before the break if you are traveling as it may be easier to obtain one in Vermont.
- Take care of yourself by focusing on sleep, hydration, nutrition, and regular exercise.
- Plan ahead and sign up in advance for a test before departing and returning to campus.
- For students: We plan to require prearrival PCR testing for all students returning to campus in January. We will announce more details soon, but be aware that labs may be closed for the New Year’s Day holiday, and turnaround time may be slower than usual. To avoid issues with students waiting for test results, tests may be taken five days ahead of arrival. If possible, book your prearrival test now.
Testing Opportunities for Students
We continue to offer testing each week to any student who wishes to be tested. Below are instructions based on whether they are experiencing symptoms.
For Asymptomatic Students:
COVID-19 testing appointments are available for asymptomatic students at Virtue Field House on Monday, Dec. 6, and Wednesday, Dec. 8. Students must sign up in advance starting in the afternoon on Thursday, Dec. 2, by using this link to book a testing appointment. Appointments may be scheduled 10 days in advance of the testing date.
For Symptomatic Students:
- Fully vaccinated students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and schedule a COVID-19 test at Health Services in their Student Health Portal. In the health portal, go to the drop-down menu in the top right to select an appointment for “symptomatic” testing.
- Fully vaccinated students experiencing symptoms after business hours must quarantine in their rooms, contact TimelyCare, and then schedule a COVID-19 test at Health Services in their Student Health Portal. Call Health Services on the next business day at 802-443-3290 if you are unable to schedule symptomatic testing.
- Unvaccinated students experiencing symptoms must contact Health Services at 802-443-3290, if during business hours, or the Department of Public Safety at 802-443-5133, if after hours, so that a quarantine plan can be made. You must also schedule a COVID-19 test at Health Services per the instructions above.
For Students Who Test Off Campus and Receive a Positive Result:
Any student who obtains a test off campus and receives a positive result must immediately contact Health Services, if during business hours, or Public Safety, if after hours, so that they can be moved to separate isolation housing.
Employee Testing Resources
Faculty and staff may sign up for COVID-19 testing appointments through the state Department of Health, their healthcare provider, or local pharmacies. Employees are encouraged to sign up early for holiday-related testing to ensure availability.
Thank you for your attention to these updates. 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
Vice President for Student Affairs