First-year students and transfer students in their first year who have already achieved academic success at the University were honored at the Success Scholars reception Feb. 23. The Success Scholars program recognizes new students who earned a GPA of 3.75…
COVID Update: Key Data | Vaccine Clinic | Testing
Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff:
Welcome back to campus. For those of you beginning your Syracuse University journey this semester, welcome! I hope all of you have experienced a productive and enjoyable first week of the new semester.
Over the past two years, the pandemic has challenged our campus community in many ways. And now, as we look ahead to the spring semester, we’re challenged again by an infectious COVID variant. That said, we start the spring semester as a vaccinated and boosted campus community, and as new COVID cases are trending down in Central New York and in many parts of the U.S. The data we have available, including some shared below, gives us confidence in our ability to continue delivering a robust in-person experience, while at the same time safeguarding the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors.
As this is our first public health update of the new semester, I’d like to begin by sharing some facts and data:
- Active Cases: As of today, we are reporting 201 active cases among members of our campus community. Given the highly transmissible nature of the omicron variant, this level of positivity on campus is not unexpected. Further, we do anticipate that we will continue to identify new positive cases on campus over the next few weeks, as the surge driven by the omicron variant continues to decline throughout our region. As always, we will update the community daily as to new cases by way of the COVID-19 Dashboard.
- Isolation Space: The University is closely monitoring utilization rates for on-campus isolation housing for students who test positive for COVID. As of today, only 20 percent of isolation housing is occupied, meaning 80 percent of the University’s on-campus isolation housing remains available to accommodate new cases among students on campus. We have contingency plans in place if demand for on-campus isolation housing exceeds our current capacity. Regarding isolation housing, it is important to note that not all students who test positive for COVID utilize University-provided isolation housing. For example, if a student living off campus tests positive, and it is determined by a University COVID case investigator that the student can isolate safely in their off-campus apartment, those students can do so. Conversely, if it is determined that a student residing off campus cannot isolate safely in their off-campus apartment (i.e., the student shares a room or bathroom with another individual), those students will isolate on campus in University-provided isolation housing.
- Pre-Arrival Testing: As you’re aware, all students were required to participate in pre-arrival testing prior to returning to campus. As a result of this safeguard, approximately 300 students were identified as COVID-positive immediately prior to their planned return to campus. Those students were subsequently directed to remain at home until completing their isolation period. Only students providing documentation of a negative pre-arrival test were cleared to return to campus.
- Arrival Testing: In addition to pre-arrival testing, all students were also required to receive a PCR-type arrival test once they arrived on campus. This allowed us to identify an additional 332 positive cases among students returning to campus. Students testing COVID-positive upon arrival were directed into isolation as required by public health guidelines. There are several explanations why arrival testing detected positive cases despite pre-arrival testing, including the fact that at-home antigen-type tests can sometimes generate a “false negative” result when administered to an asymptomatic individual. It’s exactly for this reason that our PCR-type arrival testing protocol was incorporated into our return to campus process.
- Vaccine Compliance: I am pleased to share our students are taking our vaccine requirements seriously. The Barnes Center is working to complete verification of all vaccine documentation this week associated with our COVID booster and flu vaccine requirements. We expect that after accounting for medical and religious exemptions the rate of vaccination among students will be close to 98% on campus. Any student exempt from vaccination given an approved religious or medical exemption is required to participate in weekly PCR-type testing on campus, in addition to strict compliance with all relevant masking guidelines.
- Surveillance Testing Program and Test Positivity: Data from the first full week of surveillance testing is promising. Across more than 7,300 tests performed on campus between Monday, Jan. 24, and Friday, Jan. 28, the test positivity rate was 2.90 percent. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to participating in our surveillance testing program. I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of participating when you are selected for testing. This data helps us proactively identify and act to mitigate potential trends in transmission across the campus community.
- Wastewater Testing: Syracuse University was one of the first universities in the U.S. to introduce wastewater testing as part of our COVID response strategy. With the start of the semester last Monday, we also resumed our wastewater testing program on campus—focusing first on our large, on-campus residence halls. Initial findings are very favorable. Specifically, the wastewater testing team did not identify any quantifiable level of virus in the wastewater from the two on-campus residence halls that were the focus of testing last week. We will continue to leverage the expertise of our public health faculty to detect early signs of the virus in our wastewater.
Beyond the data, I also want to provide some brief updates on the following areas:
- Vaccine Requirement Compliance Deadline for Faculty and Staff
- COVID-19 Testing
- KN95 Masks
Vaccine Requirement Compliance Deadline
As previously communicated, today is the deadline for all faculty and staff to complete their COVID vaccine series and the flu vaccine. To provide our employees with one final opportunity to comply with the COVID and flu vaccine requirements, the University is partnering with Wegmans Pharmacy to offer flu and COVID-19 vaccines (including the booster) for faculty and staff on campus. The vaccine clinic is scheduled for:
- Tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 1
- 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Kimmel Dining Hall
If you plan to participate, please bring:
- Your Syracuse University I.D. card
- Your health insurance card, if applicable
- Your vaccine card if you have already received one or more doses of a COVID vaccine
For more information about the vaccine requirements, visit the Faculty and Staff page of Syracuse.edu/staysafe. If you have questions about documenting your vaccines, please contact HR Shared Services at 315.443.4042 or email@example.com.
We are pleased to see so many members of our community continue to take full advantage of our free, on-campus COVID testing. As a reminder, students, faculty and staff who access campus under a medical or religious vaccine exemption are required to participate in routine COVID surveillance testing once per week. In addition, this requirement is now also extended to any individual who has not yet become eligible to receive a booster. Community compliance with the requirements of the surveillance testing program will be closely monitored.
Please visit the Get Tested page on the Stay Safe website for up-to-date testing location, hours and availability.
As a reminder, all members of our campus community must continue to wear a mask when indoors, and outdoors when in the presence of others. This will remain in place until, at a minimum, the statewide masking order is rescinded.
Given the highly infectious nature of the omicron variant, the University is strongly encouraging double-masking or the use of a surgical masks or KN95-type masks, as opposed to cloth masks alone while indoors on campus. For students residing on campus, each residence hall has been stocked with a supply of surgical masks for students. For students residing off campus, you can pick up surgical masks from the Goldstein Student Center.
Additionally, we have received inquiries from some members of the community about the KN95 masks made available to employees by the University. The University is reviewing whether the Jinyinshan KN95 masks distributed on Jan. 14 or 18, 2022, are part of a Food and Drug Administration recall. Our current information provided by the distributor indicates that these masks were not part of the manufacturers lots affected by the recall. While we verify this data, the University is providing an additional supply of KN95 masks from another vendor and asking that any undistributed masks of this type be returned to Environmental Health and Safety Services. Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the information I shared today, as well as all other current public health guidance, can be found by visiting Syracuse.edu/staysafe. The University will continue to update the COVID dashboard and share any new information about our COVID public health strategy via email and on the Stay Safe site. Thank you for your continued cooperation and attention to these important updates. We look forward to a great semester ahead.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation