Dear Students, Faculty and Staff: I had hoped my first communication with the campus community would be to share positive news. Sadly though, I am writing with the most difficult news to share—the passing of one of our students. We…
COVID-19 Update: Vaccination | Testing | Important Reminders | Zoom Sessions
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:
The start of the spring semester is quickly approaching, and many in our community are working diligently to prepare for the return of our students and to safely resume in-person teaching and learning. We remain on track and ready to resume residential instruction on Feb. 8, subject to any additional local or state public health mandates. As it relates to our public health and safety planning, we have incorporated many lessons learned from our experiences throughout the fall semester—and new science related to COVID-19—into our preparation for the spring. I’m confident that we’re ready to deliver a meaningful academic and student experience, in a way that safeguards the health and well-being of our campus and the Central New York community.
As was the case in the fall semester, you will continue to receive frequent updates from me and other campus leaders. Today’s message addresses some very important information related to return-to-campus procedures, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, and other important public health information, including:
For Our Community
- Stadium Testing Center Closed Monday, Jan. 18
- Spring Semester Testing Program
- Contact Tracing Expansion
- Flu Vaccination
For Students and Families
- Check-In, Testing and Quarantining
- Informational Zoom Sessions
- Retrieving Belongings from Campus
- For Students Who Have Received the COVID-19 Vaccine
- Financial Support
- Stay Safe Pledge
For Faculty and Staff
- COVID-19 Vaccine
- Dependent Testing
In addition to my ongoing updates, please be sure to bookmark and visit Syracuse.edu/staysafe regularly. There you will find the latest public health guidance, up-to-date frequently asked questions and a host of other pertinent information.
For Our Community
Stadium Testing Center Closed Monday, Jan. 18: In observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, the University’s Stadium Testing Center will be closed on Monday, Jan. 18. The Stadium Testing Center will resume its scheduled hours on Tuesday, Jan. 19: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Spring Semester Testing Program: Robust surveillance testing will be central to sustaining in-person teaching and learning in the spring and is an important strategy supporting the objective of keeping our campus community safe. While we conducted more than 100,000 COVID-19 surveillance tests last semester, our goal is to double or even triple that level of testing throughout the spring. The more we test, the more likely we are to quickly identify and isolate instances of infection on our campus. For that reason, we will routinely test all members of our campus community throughout the spring, based on surveillance testing developed by our public health professionals.
We will share additional details related to the testing protocol and testing frequency in a future message. However, residential students (undergraduate and graduate) should expect to be tested weekly. Compliance with this weekly testing requirement will be mandatory for all students, and students who do not participate in weekly surveillance should expect to have campus access and technology privileges immediately limited or suspended.
Faculty teaching in-person classes and staff engaging with students should be tested, at a minimum, once every 14 days. Faculty and staff accessing campus, but not routinely engaging students, should visit the Stadium Testing Center and be tested at least once every 30 days. Of course, the Stadium Testing Center will also continue to support on-demand testing for all members of our community, and their dependents, during regularly scheduled hours of operation.
Contact Tracing: Another example of where we are applying lessons learned from the fall semester to enhance our public health response relates to contact tracing. Specifically, we have taken steps over the break to expand our contact tracing program, to include:
- Hiring four full-time employees to supplement the Barnes Center staff in support of contact tracing administration and coordination.
- Expanding the current part-time student contact tracing team from 30 to 50.
- Establishing and growing a contact tracing volunteer program that extends to all staff—essentially creating a “reserve force” of contact tracing volunteers who can be called into service as required. Several of our peer institutions, including Duke University, University of Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, have successfully deployed similar programs.
These enhancements will allow us to identify, trace and isolate potential COVID-19 exposures more efficiently and effectively, ultimately enhancing our ability to quickly undercut potential spread of the virus on our campus.
Get Your Flu Shot: If you haven’t received a flu shot, please do so as soon as possible. The majority of students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated against the flu, but we expect all members of the University community to get a flu shot—a critical way to stay healthy, especially during this pandemic.
Students who have not yet submitted proof of vaccination in the Barnes Center Patient Portal or a medical or religious waiver exemption must get a flu shot to attend in-person classes, participate in on-campus activities and use on-campus facilities. Faculty and staff are asked to complete a Flu Vaccine Status Attestation Questionnaire to confirm they’ve received a vaccine or to document a medical or religious exemption. To learn more, faculty and staff can visit the Wellness Initiative website and students and families can visit the Barnes Center website.
For Students and Families
Campus Check-In, Pre-Arrival Testing and Quarantine Requirements: All students, including those living off-campus, need to follow specific check-in and testing procedures to access campus, including attending in-person classes. There are different procedures for students based on where they reside. For students who live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or Vermont, please review the check-in procedures and pre-arrival testing requirements based on public health guidance for your location. For students who live in any state outside of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or Vermont or in an international location, please review the check-in procedures and pre-arrival testing and quarantine requirements based on your location. I encourage students and families to visit our frequently asked questions page, which is updated regularly and can be found at syracuse.edu/staysafe/frequently-asked-questions.
Zoom Sessions for Students and Families: We recognize details and information impacting the return-to-campus process for students can be overwhelming—particularly during the time of COVID-19. To support our students and families, the University will hold a series of virtual information sessions to answer questions regarding the return to campus for the Spring 2021 semester. Like prior to the start of the fall semester, these sessions will feature University leaders and subject matter experts speaking on issues such as testing, quarantine policy, check-in, public health guidance, academic affairs, the student experience, residential life, and student and parent support mechanisms. Sessions will be held on the following dates and times (all times are ET): Jan. 19, 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Jan. 21, 8 p.m.; and Jan. 25, noon and 8 p.m. Each session will last 75 minutes, and questions can be submitted from students and families via the Q&A feature on Zoom. The link to the Zoom sessions are on Syracuse.edu/staysafe. For those unable to participate live, the link to the recorded session will be posted on Syracuse.edu/staysafe and on the University’s campus social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.
Belongings if Not Returning for Spring 2021: Students who have decided to participate in distance learning or take a leave of absence for the Spring 2021 semester, and who still have belongings in their on-campus residence, will have an opportunity to retrieve their possessions prior to the start of the semester.
The University will allow students to return beginning Friday, Jan. 22, and through Sunday, Jan. 24, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., to retrieve belongings from their on-campus residence. Any student who plans to come to campus to retrieve their belongings should email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time to return to campus. All students and families will need to follow the applicable rules set out in the New York State travel advisory.
For Students Who Have Received the COVID-19 Vaccine: Students who have received the COVID-19 vaccination during winter break should notify the Barnes Center of their vaccination status. Students will be able to upload their vaccination record to the Student Patient Portal. Instructions on how to upload your vaccination record will be posted to the portal soon. Please note, your vaccination status has no bearing on student compliance with pre-arrival testing or quarantine requirements, or compliance with all other public health protocols required to access the Syracuse University campus.
Financial Assistance: The pandemic has imposed immeasurable challenges for many members of our community, including financial hardship. Be advised that there is support and assistance available to our students facing economic hardship. To learn more about resources, please review information about emergency funding and complete the financial appeal for U.S. citizens/permanent residents or financial appeal for international students to apply. These requests will be reviewed quickly. Decisions are based on financial need and/or hardship. We will do everything we can to ensure our students, regardless of their economic circumstances, return safely to campus to continue their studies.
Affirming the Stay Safe Pledge: All students are expected to re-affirm their commitment to the Stay Safe Pledge before returning to campus. In addition, all students should understand that whether or not they have acknowledged this pledge, failure to comply with the directives may result in a referral to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR) for violation of the Code of Student Conduct, which governs individual and group behavior on and off campus. Sanctions for violating the pledge may be found on the OSRR website.
For Faculty and Staff
COVID-19 Vaccination Process: Syracuse University has no authority or standing to make eligibility determinations related to the New York State COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, nor do we have access to a supply of vaccine for distribution. We recognize that many members of our campus community are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination while some have not yet been declared eligible. Please know: The vaccination distribution process is managed and overseen by the New York State Department of Health, and locally administered by the Onondaga County Health Department. Syracuse University does not have any supply of COVID-19 vaccine, and therefore all eligible employees must register for a vaccination appointment through Onondaga County or New York State. Please visit the Onondaga County vaccine website to learn more.
We will continue to keep our community updated with any new information we receive from local and state officials with respect to changes in guidelines and access to vaccines. We will also continue to advocate for expanded access to the vaccine for our most at-risk employees, currently not included in the state’s eligibility guidelines.
Dependent Testing: Last week, we announced that the University has extended the eligibility for voluntary COVID-19 surveillance testing to the family members of our faculty and staff. This step serves to enhance our community’s ongoing efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, and is consistent with the University’s ongoing commitment to safeguard the health and well-being of our faculty, staff and their loved ones. Here is everything you need to know:
- Individuals eligible for this testing are family members/loved ones of faculty and staff who reside in the same household as a Syracuse University employee.
- Dependent family members are eligible to be tested at the Stadium Testing Center once every 14 days, and participation is entirely voluntary.
- Testing is a limited and valuable resource, and for that reason we request that family members utilize this new resource judiciously. Family members should only participate in routine surveillance testing if there is a reason to believe that their living or work situation puts them at risk of exposure.
- Individuals experiencing COVID-like symptoms, or who have been formally directed to quarantine by a public health authority due to possible exposure, should not come to campus for testing. Instead, those individuals should contact their primary care provider.
- Family members (who are not Syracuse University employees) must be accompanied by the faculty or staff member with whom they reside when visiting the Stadium Testing Center.
- We ask faculty and staff to ensure that family members adhere to the guidelines above, so that we can maintain the continuity of this important service throughout the remainder of the COVID-19 health emergency.
We look forward to welcoming our community back to campus in early February with new and refined processes and programs in place to enhance safety and sustain health and well-being. We have learned much from our experiences last semester—and from the experiences of others. We are applying those lessons learned, along with the most up-to-date information available from public health experts, to ensure that Syracuse University delivers a fulfilling, successful and healthy spring semester.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation