As the Delta variant spreads and students return to campus, new COVID-19 school-wide policies have been put in place for fall 2021.
All students are required to be vaccinated upon returning to campus, barring religious or medical reasons, which must be approved by University Health Services (UHS). Faculty and staff must either be vaccinated or willing to adhere to regular COVID-19 testing and stricter safety protocols. As of Aug. 9, masks must be worn by anyone inside a University building, regardless of vaccination status.
In an interview with the Campus Times, Vice Provost and Director of the Department of Health Service Dr. Ralph Manchester said that “with almost all students being vaccinated, it’s very unlikely that we will have an outbreak bad enough to send students home.”
Even so, UR administration opted to err on the side of caution and heed the CDC’s new masking recommendations in the face of the Delta variant. According to the COVID-19 Updates page on the UR website, as of Aug. 13, the seven-day new cases rolling average is over 150 per day, with COVID-19-related hospitalizations at Strong Memorial doubling since July 31.
At the time of publication, there have been 14 positive cases, six of them River Campus students. According to the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard, more than 90% of students and 82% of UR employees have been vaccinated as of Aug. 18.
The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has put stronger measures in place than River Campus, including mandatory one-time testing for fully vaccinated URMC faculty and staff who are asymptomatic and have been exposed to COVID-19. As long as it is coordinated with Strong Employee Health, the occupational health service for hospital employees, the testing is free and will be offered the fifth day after exposure.
As students finish moving in this weekend, UHS has prepared for unvaccinated students that have been exposed to COVID-19 by requiring them to quarantine in Whipple Park while they wait for a COVID-19 test result. Unvaccinated students are also required to get tested every week.
Parents and students expressed that they support the University’s policies and are counting on the administration’s ability to manage a possible surge of COVID-19 cases on campus. Sibtain Raza, the father of sophomore Mahnoor Raza, expressed a similar expectation for the University.
“We hope that both students and the University follow all possible precautions to prevent the virus from spreading, and that if someone falls ill, the University will provide the best possible medical assistance,” he said.