Information is subject to change, please check back frequently.
Update: Per the HERO Act, masks are now required in all public indoor locations on campus. Grab-and-go dining is also strongly encouraged at this time. Additional updates will be shared in the Colgate Together digest, and online as they become available.
SARS-CoV-2 transmission between vaccinated individuals is rare. Infections can occur in vaccinated individuals, but they are more common following extended close exposure with infectious, unvaccinated individuals. Viral RNA levels decrease at a much faster rate in vaccinated individuals than unvaccinated individuals, greatly limiting the potential infectious period in vaccinated individuals.
There has been a great deal of confusion because “efficacy” can mean different things when it comes to a vaccine.
- A vaccine can be effective against severe disease, hospitalization or death.
- A vaccine can be effective against infection - it can stop you from getting infected with the disease at all, even at the lowest levels.
- A vaccine can be effective against transmission - it can prevent you from passing the virus on to others.
Although many people seem to want our vaccines to be effective against any infection or contagion (2 or 3) so they can have full immunity, that’s not how vaccines normally work. The COVID vaccines are highly effective against severe illness, hospitalization and death (1), and that’s what matters the most. These vaccines will not make COVID go away, but they will reduce its danger to the point that it is no longer disrupting our lives.
Infections in vaccinated individuals are expected, but the vaccines are still highly effective. No vaccine provides perfect protection, but COVID-19 vaccines are considered “highly” effective against symptoms, severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even with the Delta variant.
Effectiveness of vaccines with Delta variant
- 60% effective against symptomatic disease
- 93% effective against hospitalization
Johnson & Johnson:
- 67% effective against moderate disease
- 85% effective against severe disease (28 days post shot)
- 71% against hospitalization
Infections in vaccinated individuals are rare, and rarely dangerous
According to the CDC, only 0.02% of fully vaccinated people have reported an infection. On one hand, this figure is likely to underestimate the actual number of infections because most are asymptomatic and people may not get tested. On the other hand, these data support that most vaccinated people are protected from symptoms, much less severe disease and hospitalization, even if they do get infected.
Again, more than 99.99% of people who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death, a CNN analysis of August 2, 2021 CDC data suggests.
Vaccinated people are well protected from severe illness
In the US, fewer than 2% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 during the Delta surge are vaccinated individuals.
According to CDC estimates, among vaccinated individuals, this means that a vaccinated individual has a 0.003% risk of hospitalization, even following infection with the Delta variant. (Those who have been hospitalized tend to be older and/or have pre-existing conditions that render them more susceptible).
Vaccinated people can transmit the virus, but much less than those who are unvaccinated
Even if they are infected, people who are vaccinated are much less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people. Research reveals that viral load declines more quickly in vaccinated individuals than unvaccinated ones, which means those who are vaccinated are contagious for shorter periods of time. This is true even with the Delta variant. Between two vaccinated individuals, the likelihood of transmission is quite low.
Asymptomatic people, if they are vaccinated, do not seem to infect others very easily. In the cases when vaccinated people have spread the virus to others, they are usually symptomatic. Therefore, you should wear masks and maintain physical distancing around people with coughs, fevers, and other COVID symptoms, even if they are vaccinated.
In the most important ways, we are not altering our approach at all. All decisions are still shaped by the Task Force on Reopening’s guiding principles, which make health and safety the first priority and require all recommendations to be grounded in science and public health data. These guidelines also require us to focus on Colgate’s academic mission, to prioritize equity, and to consider the impact of any policies and practices on the wider regional community.
Although our approach hasn’t changed, both the problem and the tools we have to address the problem have changed. As we all know, the Delta variant is more contagious than the SARS-CoV-2 variants we were managing in the first phase of the pandemic. On the positive side, thanks to time and additional data, we know a lot more about the virus than we did a year ago. In addition, vaccines significantly change the calculus of risk, even with the Delta variant. Some of the ways that we are used to assessing COVID are not useful now. Specifically, in a community with a high vaccination rate, it makes more sense to focus on hospitalization/death rates, rather than the infection rate, and on reducing risk rather than trying to eliminate it.
The purpose of the vaccines was never to eliminate the virus (SARS-CoV-2) or even to eliminate infections. It was to reduce symptomatic disease - and, more specifically, to keep people from getting seriously ill, especially to the point of needing hospitalization or being at risk of death. In the best case scenario, when most of the world is fully vaccinated, SARS-CoV-2 will still be with us and the disease will be endemic. There will still be some infections, but COVID-19 will no longer be highly disruptive or deadly.
- The infection rate, by itself, is not as important as the rates of serious illness, hospitalization and death.
- Before we had vaccines, we got used to using infection rates as the way to measure the severity of the pandemic. We learned to see any and every infection was dangerous. This made sense at the time because, without vaccines, any infection could lead to an outbreak which would result in lots of hospitalizations and deaths.
- However, the chances that a vaccinated person can infect another vaccinated person, even with the Delta variant, is very low. As a result, in a community with high vaccination rates, the danger of infections leading to outbreaks that result in widespread severe illness, high hospitalization rates, and deaths is very low. Infections are still bad for individuals, and we need to minimize them. However, they are no longer nearly as dangerous to the community as they were before most of us were vaccinated. Therefore, now that a substantial portion of the population is vaccinated in this community, the more important metrics upon which to focus are severe disease, hospitalization and death rates.
- Reducing risk, rather than eliminating risk.
- When the pandemic first began, we had very little information about COVID-19. At that time, the goal was to eliminate risk as much as possible, leading to a zero-tolerance approach towards infections with lockdowns, quarantines to “flatten the curve.” We implemented widespread surveillance testing to catch every single infection because every SARS-CoV-2 positive individual could lead to an outbreak resulting in severe disease, hospitalizations and even death.
- Although this made sense at the time, zero-tolerance is not a long-term solution because diseases can never be fully eliminated, and the disruption to society (and education) eventually becomes untenable. Fortunately, zero-tolerance is no longer necessary now that we know more about the disease. With more information about how to prevent contagion, as well as new tools such as the vaccine, we can reduce the risk enough so that we can manage COVID-19 as we would other circulating respiratory illnesses.
- Of course if the science on COVID changes, we will change our approach. The members of the Task Force and EOC keep up on new information and scientific findings daily.
Scientific research shows that face coverings are very effective at reducing the transmission of SARS CoV-2 (summary). They help by protecting you when you wear a mask and also by protecting others from any respiratory-transmitted diseases that you might carry, including COVID-19. Because SARS CoV-2 is transmitted in tiny airborne droplets that can be dispersed by good airflow, it is much safer outdoors than indoors, especially in places with limited air circulation. Currently, the CDC, and Colgate strongly recommends vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission, because this is the best way to protect you and others in places where people are most likely to be infected. There are certain places at Colgate where wearing a face covering is required by law: healthcare settings and public transportation such as the Cruiser.
There are other areas where masks are required by University policy, including Trudy Fitness Center and in classrooms where a professor requires it. All of these settings involve people in relatively close contact with each other for a potentially significant amount of time. Some of the settings require face coverings because people do not have a choice about being in these spaces (classrooms, healthcare settings), and we need to protect the health of the most vulnerable among us. Some of these settings require face coverings because they are open to community members who are potentially older and have more health conditions that make them vulnerable to the disease, or involve activities that increase the spread of the virus (both of these conditions apply to Trudy Fitness Center).
In general, if any member of the community asks any other member to put on a face covering, we should comply out of respect and care. Different people have different health issues, household situations, and risk tolerance levels. It is one of the Colgate community’s central values to protect and help each other, especially those who are more vulnerable.
See the earlier question about vaccine efficacy addressed by the Task Force.
Despite some scary stories in the news, there is currently insufficient evidence yet that vaccine immunity declines in a meaningful way, or that booster shots would be that helpful. Even if immunity against infection wanes a little over the first year, the data seem to indicate that vaccines are still highly effective at protecting the vast majority of people against symptoms, severe illness, and hospitalization. Those who are extremely vulnerable, such as nursing home residents or highly immunocompromised people, may benefit from booster shots, but they may do very little for the rest of us.
There are better strategies to protect ourselves, including to vaccinate as many people as possible, globally, to decrease the chances that new variants will develop. On an individual level, there are other ways to decrease your chances of COVID infection. (See other FAQ on this.)
The science may change on this topic, and Colgate will be responsive to new information. We are an approved COVID-19 vaccination site, so if booster shots become necessary, it is likely that Colgate will be able to provide them provided we receive supply from the State of NY.
The level of risk/protection you have depends on a number of factors, and many of them are in your control. The most obvious one is to get vaccinated and to encourage everyone around you to get vaccinated if they are able. Fortunately, this is the situation on campus.
There are also additional layers of protection that you can add:
- Face coverings
- Wear a face covering, especially when indoors or in crowded outdoor situations. Masking is highly effective at protecting you from COVID (and other respiratory diseases), and protecting others from you.
- Even if those around you are not wearing face coverings, wearing a mask yourself gives you substantial additional protection. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told that masks only protected others because it was assumed that COVID spread on surfaces and mainly through touch, but that turned out to be wrong. COVID spreads mainly through air, and filtering the air you breathe is the best way to prevent the virus from getting into your body and causing an infection.
- To increase your protection level, make sure that your face covering is effective at filtering out the virus and fits your face well. Here are some tips from the CDC to increase the protection from your face coverings:
- Cloth masks: Look for multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric. The mask should block light when held up to a bright light source. Choose masks with nose wires, and that fit tightly to your face.
- Disposable Masks: Look for ones made of multiple layers of non-woven material. Choose masks with nose wires, and that fit tightly to your face.
- To increase protection:
- Wear two masks (disposable mask underneath AND cloth mask on top)
- A cloth mask can be combined with a fitter or brace for better fit and comfort.
- Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask where they join the edge of the mask
- SARS CoV-2 travels in airborne droplets. The farther it has to go, the less likely it is to reach you
- Stay 6 or more feet away from other people as much as possible.
- Move outside! Because SARS CoV-2 can be blown away by good airflow, it is much safer outdoors than indoors.
- Improve airflow indoors. Open the windows. Colgate has invested in improving air circulation in many of its buildings where possible, but here are tips from the CDC to increase ventilation in your home.
- Avoid indoor crowded situations where you cannot wear a mask (such as when you are eating and drinking), especially if you do not know the vaccination status of the people around you.
- SARS CoV-2 travels in airborne droplets. The farther it has to go, the less likely it is to reach you
- Wash your hands often
- Handwashing is known to be effective at preventing respiratory diseases (and other illnesses, too!).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. It’s especially important to wash before eating or preparing food, after using the restroom, when you are caring for someone sick, and after leaving a public place. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Faculty and Staff can request supplies using the department or program’s AA or COVID Supply Coordinator. Supplies will be delivered upon request.
- Students can request supplies using their Community Leader (CL) or Residential Director (RD) and requests can be made within the Residential Life Department.
Colgate's testing strategy currently includes required weekly surveillance testing for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated campus community members. However, Colgate is not licensed to do diagnostic testing for anyone besides currently enrolled Colgate students.
Fortunately for employees, COVID tests are widely available, and this website lists testing sites near you as well as at-home options.
- Free tests: This website provides a list of locations which are currently offering free COVID testing in the US.
- One of the options currently listed is Kinney Drugs, which has a location at 103 Utica St, Hamilton. Appointments are required. Register for an appointment, no referrals required.
- Dougherty Pharmacy, located at 1017 Madison Marketplace in Hamilton and 14 E Main St in Morrisville, is currently offering rapid antigen and antibody COVID testing, as well as PCR tests. Test costs range from $40-$100 out of pocket, and depending on the test and your situation, your insurance may reimburse the costs. Appointments are required. Register for an appointment, no referrals required.
You can find all the information you need about close contacts here.
- If you have any COVID symptoms, do not go out in public. Do not attend class or go to work. Students should contact the Student Health Center, and inform their professors that they miss class. Employees should contact their primary care provider and inform supervisors that they may miss work.
- If you have no symptoms:
- Students: Quarantine is not required for fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing no symptoms. However, if you are a close contact to a positive case, you must take a COVID test 3-5 days after your last exposure to the person who tested positive. Student Health Services will coordinate that testing with you. You must also wear a face covering in all public places for 14 days or until you receive a negative COVID test result. (Obviously, if your test result is positive, you must isolate yourself for ten days) Monitor for COVID-like symptoms for 14 days following the exposure. Contact Student Health Services if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19.
- Employees: In accordance with CDC guidance, fully vaccinated employees identified as a close contact may continue to work on campus so long as they complete testing within three to five days of exposure, and wear a face covering for 14 days following exposure or until receiving a negative test result. If the test result is positive, you will be required to isolate for ten days. Employees whose work responsibilities can be performed remotely may work from home with the approval of their supervisor.
When it comes to potential exposure, it is the job of trained contact tracers to evaluate the circumstances of the potential exposure and make a decision about the likelihood of transmission, based on those circumstances. The guidelines for "close contacts" (within 6 feet for 15 minutes) are the initial metric used to identify people that might be at risk for becoming infected. But not all "close contacts" are equally likely to transmit, so the contact tracers will then examine the circumstances of those close contacts to assess whether some additional steps should be taken to follow up on the exposure risk. Those circumstances may be whether the positive individual was symptomatic with respiratory symptoms, whether the individuals made physical contact, whether they were breathing heavily/singing, etc. Masks and vaccination status do not preclude someone from being ruled in or out as a "close contact" to follow up with, but they do play into these circumstances of the exposure event, and *could* (though not absolutely) be used to determine whether a particular exposure should result in notifying the individuals as being exposed and requiring follow-up. So, in the end, someone might fit the technical definition of a "close contact," and would be considered by a contact tracer, but may not be judged by that contact tracer to be at any significant risk of exposure, and therefore that individual would not be followed up with by the DoH as a "close contact." Put another way, we know transmission occurs via close contacts, so non-close contacts can (generally) be ruled out as a transmission risk, but not all close contacts result in transmission, and it is up to the contact tracers to determine the "real" exposure risks and follow up.
So, as it relates to the classroom, some of the "circumstances" that are considered by contact tracers includes the level of ventilation of the room - highly ventilated spaces (such as classrooms) are at lower risk for transmission than unventilated rooms, so this would be one thing that could go into the assessment. Another might be what the students were doing - passively seated listening to a lecture is different than talking in a group or singing/acting/physically exerting, so these would also be considered. Masks and vaccination status of these individuals may also be part of the assessment (though, again, they alone are not sufficient to rule out a close contact designation). At the end of the day, most contact tracers (again not all) consider a classroom environment to be a low transmission risk scenario, and rarely designate in classroom interactions as worth following up on...for good reason! There were many colleges that were open last year with no masks, physical distancing, or vaccination, and there is very little evidence for any documented cases of in-classroom transmission; that doesn't mean it doesn't exist, or could never happen, just that it happens exceedingly rarely, especially in environments where additional precautions (such as vaccination and masking) are used. So, as it relates to the classroom, if, indeed, a contact tracer does feel like the interactions in the classroom posed significant transmission risks, those individuals (and only those individuals directly deemed as close contacts), would be contacted and asked to i) monitor for symptoms; ii) wear a mask; and iii) get tested 3-5 days after exposure. If you have not heard from a contact tracer, then that interaction was deemed unlikely to transmit.
We have learned a lot about COVID in the last 18 months. Most infections (the mildly symptomatic/asymptomatic ones) largely take place in the upper airways (nasopharynx). Some infections then (after about a week) move deeper into the bronchi/lungs, and this is where the trouble starts, as people start having shortness of breath and their oxygen saturation decreases (the primary reason that people start to need medical care). At this point, the virus has largely passed from the system, and what is driving the symptoms is largely the body's inflammatory response to the infection (this is the point at which steroids are recommended, as the primary concern is the immune response, not virus replication). Scientists don't (yet, fully) know why the inflammatory response goes haywire, but we do know that many of the systemic issues associated with severe disease (coagulation issues, leading to mini-strokes, cardiomyopathy, etc.) are largely mediated by this inflammatory response, not because the virus is spreading systemically. It is this haywire inflammatory response that is likely driving long COVID, as it is taking place well after there is no detectable virus present - the body has had a huge inflammatory insult, and is struggling to get back to homeostasis. We also know that many other post-acute sequelae from other infections are driven the same way - you don't hear about "long flu" but it exists following severe infections, especially in situations where the inflammatory response goes haywire. So, why is this unlikely following vaccination? The vaccines are delivered in a way that acts systemically - you get a shot in the arm, you get antibody production from the draining lymph nodes (which circulates throughout the body and into "mucosal" surfaces such as the nasopharynx), and you produce memory T and B cells that likewise traffic into tissues throughout the body to "surveil" for the pathogen returning. The circulating antibodies are especially present in mucosal tissues, so the initial efficacy of the vaccines in preventing infection is due to the neutralizing antibodies in the nasopharynx. But, even when those levels wane (as they do naturally), you may have virus start to replicate in the nasopharynx, but it activates those memory T and B cells to rapidly produce more antibody, which helps prevent the virus from making it lower into the lungs (again, why most infections in vaccinated individuals are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic). Because the virus is not making it lower in the lungs, and because your body is already responding to the virus in a "normal" way, you are much less likely to trigger the major inflammatory reactions, and are therefore much less likely to have longer term sequelae. Recent data suggests that there is at least a 50% reduction in the number of infected individuals with symptoms longer than 28 days post-infection – for all symptoms. The likelihood of severe symptoms, that people experiencing “long COVID” have, is even lower. This is not to say that it can't happen - if you are unlucky enough to have more severe disease (most likely because you just didn't mount a great immune response to the vaccine and therefore are dealing with the infection as if it were a "new" pathogen rather than one that is already recognized), you may have the inflammation, and therefore may have "long COVID" - but the fraction of people with severe disease that get long COVID is already low, and if you then greatly decrease the risk of severe disease via vaccination, the chances for long COVID are that much lower.
Facilities and EHS have installed MERV13 filters (CDC-recommended level) on every HVAC system on campus that can handle them (almost all can). Additionally, all of the air handlers are running 24 hours a day at full capacity to maximize ventilation (i.e. the number of air exchanges) and they are continually monitored. This very high level of ventilation is one of the many layers that Colgate is using (including high vaccination rates, and masking) to help keep our community safe.
Professors have all of the options that they had prior to COVID for dealing with emergency situations in the classroom. Faculty may teach (temporarily) on Zoom, create alternative assignments, have a colleague teach a lecture(s), or cancel class, as they deem necessary. Please note that the availability of new technologies, such as Zoom, should not lead to unhealthy expectations for faculty or students to work when they are ill, need to take care of others, or deal with emergencies.
Faculty members have all of the options that you had pre-Covid for dealing with emergency situations with your students. You can have them obtain notes from a peer (or share yours) and ask them to come to office hours upon their return with any questions (or Zoom with them in office hours). You may assign alternative assignments, digitally record your lecture/class, and/or accommodate via Zooming your class (it is your decision how to handle the situation, not the student’s). Please note that the availability of new technologies, such as Zoom, should not lead to unhealthy expectations for faculty or students to work when they are ill, need to take care of others, or deal with emergencies.
If a student tests positive, the classmates who sit near them may be designated as close contacts if they were within 6 feet of one another for more than 15 minutes. If these close contacts are vaccinated, they will still be able to attend class, but they must be tested within 3-5 days and wear a face covering until they receive a negative COVID test result (or for 14 days). If the close contacts are unvaccinated, they will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Legally, Colgate cannot give you that information except in specific circumstances. Student health information is not subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but it’s subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA permits disclosure to institutional personnel on a need to know basis, for purposes of enabling them to perform their professional obligations to the institution. For example, with reference to vaccine status faculty may have a legitimate need to know whether individual students are vaccinated in order to enforce institutional policies on masking/distancing in the classroom, etc.
With respect to a positive test result, however, the analysis about “need to know” is different, in that those students will not be in class (prospectively), so the disclosure isn’t for the purpose of enforcing institutional policy, it is (presumably) to enable the faculty to know whether they were exposed. As noted in guidance issued by the United States Department of Education, FERPA would generally prohibit the disclosure of a student‘s positive test result other than in situations in which disclosure is necessary to help prevent an emergent risk to health or safety. Specifically, FERPA’s “health or safety” exception is the basis on which institutions can disclose positive test results to public health authorities and, through contact tracing, to those identified as being close contacts of an individual who tested positive, and who are therefore at risk. However, an instructor, simply by virtue of being present in the same classroom with appropriate distancing and masking, would not necessarily be at risk and permitted to receive information. Rather, this sort of disclosure would happen through contact tracing with valid controls on information flow (including, among other things, following determination as to whether the student was in the faculty member’s class during the relevant time period, whether they were sufficiently proximate to create a risk, whether they were masked, etc.).
Colgate will remain flexible and responsive to the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that in a community with a high vaccination rate, the infection rate alone is no longer the best measure of the riskiness of the situation (see other questions and answers above). Infections in vaccinated individuals are unlikely to lead to an outbreak that will cause severe disease, hospitalizations, or deaths. Therefore, it is these latter measures that carry more weight in shaping our response.
It is also important to note that the data so far indicate that classrooms are one of the least likely places for COVID to be spread on campus, compared to dorms and residences, bars and restaurants, and other congregate social (and eating) spaces. Colgate has invested significantly in increasing ventilation and air flow in many classroom buildings to reduce the possibility of contagion. Even if classes moved online, students would still be at risk for contracting COVID-19 because they would be eating together in dining halls, living together in residence halls, and spending time together socially. Changing to remote instruction would not necessarily decrease risk of contracting COVID-19 and would result in impacts on education.
However, the University will continue to review the data and science as it emerges, and we will make adjustments as necessary to protect the health and safety of Colgate community members.
Yes, there are no restrictions on events for Colgate-only audiences. Events with guests from outside of Colgate do have restrictions, however. Please adhere to the Events policy for best practices and details on the current restrictions for non-Colgate guests.
- Temporary Closure:
- Faculty: if the closure is temporary, you have all of the options that you had pre-COVID for dealing with emergency situations in your classroom. You may teach (for a temporary time) on Zoom, create alternative assignments, have a colleague teach a lecture(s), or cancel class, as you deem necessary. Please note that the availability of new technologies, such as Zoom, should not lead to unhealthy expectations for faculty or students to work when they are ill, need to take care of others, or deal with emergencies.
- Staff: If quarantine or isolation is recommended by a physician or public health official, the employee should complete this form. If an employee in quarantine or isolation is well enough to work, and the nature of the work allows for remote work, the employee may work from home with supervisor approval. If the work does not allow for remote work and you are an hourly employee, the University will provide up to two weeks (10 working days) of sick time to use during the quarantine or isolation period.
- More information about caring for dependents can be found here.
- Long-term closure: Colgate will remain flexible and responsive to changing public health conditions and to new scientific knowledge. If it is necessary to take new measures to protect the health and safety of community members, policies will change to reflect that.
Surveillance testing is not recommended by the CDC at this time. Moreover, the purpose of surveillance testing last year was to catch infections as soon as possible when every infection was potentially dangerous because it could lead to an outbreak and an increase in severe disease, hospitalization, and death. In a community with a high vaccination rate, infections are no longer nearly as dangerous. (See other FAQ on this topic). It is very unlikely for vaccinated individuals to become severely ill with the disease, and they are also less likely to spread the virus to others, especially to other vaccinated people.
However, the University will continue to review the data and science as it emerges, and we will make adjustments as necessary to protect the health and safety of Colgate community members.
All employees are empowered to require face coverings in classrooms, offices, or even in work spaces in larger public areas. (For example, a librarian could require students to mask if they are consulting with them at the reference desk.) In other words, you can have a local mask mandate in your workspace. In fact, if you work regularly with others in close proximity, it is strongly recommended.
In general, if any member of the Colgate community asks any other member to put on a face covering, we should comply out of respect and care. Different people have different health issues and risk tolerance levels. It is one of the Colgate community’s central values to protect and help each other, especially those who are more vulnerable.
If you encounter resistance or non-compliance to a masking requirement in your workspace, please report this to your supervisor, any member of the Task Force, or to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Dean of the College, or Human Resources.
As members of a caring community, we all have a responsibility to foster the wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff. If you are concerned, it is important to share that information so we can follow-up with the individual.
Behaviors that violate the expectations set forth in the Commitment to Community Health can jeopardize the health and safety of members of the community or increase the likelihood of a viral outbreak on campus or within the Village and Town of Hamilton.
You may call Campus Safety directly to report a clear violation.
Guidelines and regulations may change as the semester progresses. Fortunately, given the high campus vaccination rate, there is less risk for serious illness or hospitalization for students or employees. The sanctions for violations are different than they were in the first phase of the pandemic when it was necessary to remove violators from campus for the health and safety of the entire campus. During the fall 2021 semester, violations and sanctions closely align with those in the University’s Student Code of Conduct, Faculty Handbook, or Staff Handbook.
However, those who violate guidelines will still be sanctioned. For example:
- Students who violate a professor’s masking policy in the classroom will be considered in violation of Colgate’s Policy on Academic Behavior. According to this policy, violations “may lead to disciplinary action and/or removal from the class, including loss of course credit.” If a student is not adhering to your expectations, talk with them. Explain your reasoning and make your expectations clear. If they still do not comply, report them as being disruptive in your classroom to the Offices of the Dean of the Faculty or Dean of the College.
- Face coverings are required in the Trudy Fitness Center. Students who violate this policy will be asked to leave by Campus Safety. Students who violate this policy more than twice will lose their access to athletic facilities for the remainder of the semester. Face coverings are required in all campus healthcare settings and on public transport, such as the Colgate cruiser. Students who do not wear masks in the settings will forfeit access to this service and may also face sanctions through the Commitment to Community Health and/or the University’s student conduct system.
- Repeated or egregious violations of Colgate’s commitment to community health could lead to suspension or expulsion from the University.
Unfortunately, face shields do not do a good job of keeping the virus out. According to the CDC, “Face shields... are primarily used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. ...Face shields are not as effective at protecting you or the people around you from respiratory droplets. Face shields have large gaps below and alongside the face, where your respiratory droplets may escape and reach others around you and will not protect you from respiratory droplets from others.”
You are permitted teach without a face covering, or take it off when students need to see your face. If you choose to do this, it is strongly recommended that you try to stay 6 or more feet away from students as much as possible to minimize potential transmission.
Please read the responses to other questions that are related to how managing SARS-CoV-2 this semester differs from the 2020-2021 academic year.
Colgate is conducting surveillance testing, just less of it compared to last year. Surveillance testing is still an important tool for protecting our health and safety on campus. Like every tool, though, it is more useful under some circumstances than others, and conditions on campus are very different this year than they were last year. Importantly, the decision to not conduct less surveillance testing has nothing to do with financial reasons. The Task Force has made recommendations and the Executive Group has approved recommendations without regard to cost. The reason the Task Force is not recommending to conduct as much surveillance testing this year as last year is because the CDC is not recommending surveillance testing for vaccinated individuals and the health and safety benefits of continuing this testing need to be considered alongside the labor costs within a larger, external community that is dealing with a shortage of healthcare professionals.
There are significant human resource costs to administer as many tests as we were running last year on a sustained basis. On the actual testing logistics, we are not in an urban area where we can rapidly pull people in to conduct the testing. Given nursing shortages, we have to think bigger picture about whether it is worth hiring nurses/student health services staff away from working in the community to test vaccinated, asymptomatic college students who are at low risk for severe disease. At the same time, there is an incredible amount of staff labor to ensure that all of the people actually show up to their tests, plus administer appropriate levels of sanctions for those who fail to comply.
If surveillance testing offered significant benefits in terms of health and safety, Colgate would be willing to take on these costs in terms of labor, resources, and morale, just as we did last year. However, in a highly vaccinated population, the benefits of biweekly surveillance testing (like we did in the 2021 spring semester) would be minimal. In an unvaccinated population, the likelihood of transmission chains from an infected individual was high, and even more, the risk of “superspreader” events was the real challenge, and given the (relatively) high chance of severe illness, it made sense to expend the resource costs to identify every case to curtail the spread (the “no COVID” approach). But we are now in a very different situation. Because of the high vaccination rates in our populations, the chance for transmission chains, and especially superspreader events, is greatly reduced. The majority of “breakthrough” infections happen when a vaccinated person is infected by an unvaccinated person. That is not to say that one vaccinated individual can’t transmit to another vaccinated individual, but the chances of that are low. Even if it does happen, the chance for multiple transmissions in a row is even lower. As a result, any positive cases (especially asymptomatic ones) are likely to be self-limiting.
As a result, we are conducting surveillance testing when it is most useful for reducing COVID on campus. We conducted multiple tests of the entire student population when they arrived on campus, as well as administered employee surveillance testing before the beginning of the semester. We are testing unvaccinated individuals every week because they are the most at risk of severe disease, and also the most likely to spread infections to others. We are testing symptomatic people, who are more likely to transmit infections to others (compared to asymptomatic people.)
The Task Force is also considering other points in the semester where surveillance testing may be necessary or useful. As always, we are keeping an eye on campus, local, and national conditions as well as new scientific evidence, and will adjust our testing protocols in response to new information