Research (March 2021 and April 2021) supports the fact that classrooms were not a significant source of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, even when the virus was at its peak nationally. While these studies were done with physical distancing and face coverings in place, these data support the notion that in settings with face coverings, there is a much lower risk of transmission. In fact, one of the more risky activities for viral transmission is eating and drinking, because of the lack of face coverings during these activities, and this is occurring on campus every day within dining halls. Therefore, the Task Force realized that planning classrooms with physical distancing was less effective than considerations about face coverings and regulating other, more risky activities such as eating and drinking. The Task Force is also confident that even without physical distancing among students within classroom settings, faculty members are able to choose to practice physical distancing from the front of the classroom should they desire.
Decisions related to requiring face coverings on campus should be made closer to the start of the fall semester, following CDC guidance and any state regulations in place, though it is now clear that wearing masks in public settings is an effective means of reducing the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including the flu. That said, it may not be feasible to enforce consistent use of face coverings. As is always the case, faculty members may set their own course policies and choose to require face coverings in their instructional spaces. With this in mind, The Task Force recommends following Madison County and CDC guidelines that are in place closer to the start of the 2021 Fall semester.
We recommend planning for a vaccine clinic during the summer for all faculty and staff members who have been unable to secure a vaccine on their own within the state. Ideally, students would receive a vaccine during the 2021 spring semester or over the summer so that they are fully vaccinated by the end of the semester and would not need to worry about leaving and returning with the need to quarantine. This summer clinic should also be open to all eligible students who are here for summer research, international students, and the Office of Undergraduate Scholars Summer Institute.
We also recommend inviting international students who were unable to receive vaccines in their home countries back to campus early (two weeks before the start of the new student arrival) in time to allow them to receive a one dose vaccine (e.g. Johnson and Johnson), if possible.
Planning should commence, once more is known, about the possibility of a clinic for vaccine boosters this fall just as the University does annually for the influenza vaccine.
At this time, the Task Force does not recommend requiring COVID-19 vaccines for any campus community member (students, staff and faculty). While we strongly recommend community members to receive a vaccine, we know that there is a myriad of reasons, whether personal or medical, why this may not be practical. Current vaccines are being administered with Emergency Use Authorization by the Federal Drug Administration. Until and unless these vaccines receive non-emergency use approval, we do not recommend requiring vaccination among members of the Colgate community.
We recommend requiring those who have indicated they have been vaccinated to show documentation to substantiate their inoculation. Because the Task Force is recommending continued surveillance testing for non-vaccinated individuals (see next section below), it is important that we include all non-vaccinated individuals in this testing protocol.
It is important to note that non-vaccinated individuals would be required to quarantine for up to 14 days if they are identified as a close contact of a SARS-CoV-2 positive individual. So, not only does vaccination reduce one’s risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 or infecting others as an asymptomatic individual, it also eliminates the need for close contact quarantine.
The Task Force recommends surveillance testing of individuals who have not been vaccinated by the start of the fall 2021 semester, in order to reduce the chance of asymptomatic non-vaccinated individuals from infecting others with SARS-CoV-2.
Non-vaccinated individuals must understand that they will be required to go into isolation if they test positive during surveillance testing (and their close contacts will be required to go into quarantine if those individuals are not vaccinated.)
Compliance with surveillance testing should continue to be part of a modified Commitment to Community Health for those who are not vaccinated as well as for any student who may become symptomatic and test positive for SARS-CoV-2 (including those who may already have been vaccinated).
The Task Force recommends the discontinuation of wastewater testing during the summer, due to the reduced occupancy of the campus during this time; The Task Force recommends reevaluating the need for wastewater testing ahead of the Fall semester, based on the vaccination status of the campus population and the levels of community transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
The Task Force recommends close adherence to Madison County and CDC guidance in the fall, especially as the guidance is likely to become more nuanced for vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. Existing CDC guidelines allow for individuals identified as close contacts to be released from quarantine after day 7 and upon receipt of a negative diagnostic test, or after day 10 with no test (versus the current 14 day quarantine).