As students return to campuses nationwide for the fall semester, COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the U.S. — and the University is no exception.

An initial jump in cases occurred shortly after students returned to campus in the latter half of August, according to Vice Provost and Director of the Department of University Health Service Ralph Manchester, M.D.

In the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, masking and vaccine requirements have relaxed. The majority of the University’s COVID protocols have since been dismantled completely — including the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, which tracked the ongoing number of cases on campus.

Without the dashboard, the exact number of cases on campus is not publicly available.

Still, according to Manchester, there’s no cause for alarm.

“We were expecting this to happen, and the numbers are still low compared to the major surges we’ve had in the past,” said Manchester. “Everyone should take reasonable precautions to prevent infection, but the current strains are not particularly dangerous for most people.”

Hospitalizations remain relatively low nationwide, compared to other points throughout the pandemic. Much of the U.S. reports fewer than 10 new COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people, despite the current uptick in cases.

Additional booster shots are also in the works, with updated vaccines by Moderna and rival company Pfizer slated to be greenlit by the Food and Drug Administration as early as this coming Friday. The updated vaccine booster led to a nearly nine-fold increase in antibodies against a recent COVID subvariant, according to a Moderna press release published Wednesday.

Students are encouraged to receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus — but not required.

Up-to-date masking and isolation information is available on the UHS website. Students are required to mask for five days after an exposure, but are only required to quarantine if they test positive.

There are currently no plans to reinstate a masking mandate — but a future requirement remains a possibility, as New York State gears up for the school year.

“If we see a major increase in the number of cases, it’s possible that a masking requirement could be reinstated,” said Manchester.

In the meantime, UHS will continue to monitor masking guidelines as provided by local advisors, the New York State Department of Health, and the Center for Disease Control.

Masks and rapid test kits will remain available through UHS in both the River Campus and Eastman School of Music offices — and may become available in other locations in the future, depending on the number of cases.

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