| by Smita Ruzicka and Mark Peluso

Dear Middlebury Community,

We are writing with some updates about the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic in Vermont, preparations for the Thanksgiving holiday, and opportunities for students to get tested before and after the upcoming break. 

In this email we will address: 

  • State of the State
  • Safe Departure from Campus Website
  • Tips for Minimizing Exposure and Transmission
  • COVID-19 Testing for Students
  • Weekly COVID-19 Office Hours
  • COVID-19 Booster Eligibility for All Students, Faculty, and Staff

State of the State

Governor Phil Scott and state officials announced at their Tuesday press briefing that the number of cases of COVID-19 in Vermont increased by 42 percent over the previous seven days, a rate much higher than we have experienced in the pandemic. Daily case numbers averaged more than 300 cases per day during that time period, up from about 200 cases per day in recent months. State officials said they expect these numbers will hold steady over the next several weeks. Cases in New England, particularly in the more northern states, also are up by about 12 percent over the last week. There were 103 COVID-19 cases in Vermont higher education settings last week, largely due to an outbreak at St. Michael’s College, which reported more than 70 cases they believe were related to Halloween gatherings. The prevalence on the Middlebury College campus remains low at this time.

As of this week, the state of Vermont had administered more than 1 million vaccine doses, and 91.2 percent of eligible Vermonters over the age of 12 had begun the vaccination process. This morning, the state updated the percentage of eligible vaccinated individuals to include those ages 5 and older, to 79 percent.

Even with vaccination, it is still possible to test positive for COVID-19. Health Commissioner Mark Levine attributed the recent rise in cases to the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant, the fact that many Vermonters avoided infection in the early stages of the pandemic and did not develop immunity at that time, and that many were vaccinated early, so their immunity from vaccination has waned. The governor and health commissioner encouraged Vermonters to take the following steps to protect ourselves and the oldest and youngest among us, who are most vulnerable to the virus:

  • Continue to wear face coverings indoors in public spaces and in crowds where distance cannot be maintained.
  • Consider the vaccination status of those you intend to visit and your risk of exposure to the virus.
  • Use testing as a tool.
  • Stay home if sick.

In addition, Governor Scott and Dr. Levine said it is important for adults to get boosters and for children to begin the vaccination process. 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.

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.

Tips for Minimizing Exposure and Transmission

As both the Thanksgiving break and end of the semester approach, 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. Keep in mind that anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for 10 days after the onset of symptoms, so 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. 

COVID-19 Testing for Students

Please note that students with symptoms must quarantine in their rooms and arrange for a test by contacting Health Services if during business hours, at 802-443-3290. Students experiencing symptoms after business hours must quarantine in their rooms, contact MiddTelehealth, and then call Health Services on the next business day to schedule testing.

We will begin offering COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students next week on the following dates at Virtue Field House: 

  • Monday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 16, from noon to 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 17, from noon to 3 p.m.
  • 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 two days following 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 or local pharmacies. More information is available in a previous update

Weekly COVID-19 Office Hours

Please join us between 11:30 a.m. and noon EST Wednesday for weekly COVID-19 office hours. Experts who have been monitoring and managing the COVID-19 pandemic response will be available to answer your questions. Click this Zoom link to join.

COVID-19 Booster Eligibility for All Students, Faculty, and Staff

As a reminder, all faculty, staff, and students living or working at Middlebury are now eligible for COVID-19 boosters per the Vermont Department of Health, including those who are working remotely. Appointments are available through the state, pharmacies, and individual healthcare providers. To secure an appointment, students, faculty, and staff may select “Patient is 18-64 years of age and is at an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their work environment, based on individual benefit and risk” or any other category that applies when prompted. More information is available on the Department of Health website

Thank you for your perseverance as we continue to navigate this phase of the pandemic. We appreciate the work of all of our community members to keep each other healthy and safe. 

Sincerely,

Mark PelusoChief Health Officer and College Physician

Smita RuzickaVice President for Student Affairs