Boosters, masks among options as local colleges eye students’ return to Mohawk Valley campuses

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With the holiday season in the rearview mirror, local colleges and universities are finalizing plans for the upcoming spring semester, and strategizing ways to minimize health and safety impacts for on-campus students as the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

The Daily Sentinel reached out to area institutions to find out what their plans are.

Here's what they reported:

• “While the situation remains fluid, at this point masks are required and boosters are encouraged….” noted Christine Leogrande, director of Media Relations for Utica College.

In a letter to students, Utica College President Laura Casamento added, “we are requiring every student, regardless of vaccination status, to submit a negative test taken within five days prior to returning to campus. After submitting the negative test and prior to returning, students should be mindful of and take all precautions to prevent exposure to the virus (e.g. masking, social distancing, and diligent hygiene practices)....As we did throughout the fall, we will continue regular surveillance testing of symptomatic and unvaccinated individuals during the spring semester.

“• “...Boosters and masks are required of all employees and students. All students and employees currently on campus are tested weekly for COVID. Classes will begin in person on January 19…” said Vige Barrie, senior director of media relations for Hamilton College.

• “Colgate is requiring boosters and testing for our students prior to arrival for the Spring semester Jan. 22. Students will also be tested upon arrival, and again five to seven days later. We also continue to require masks indoors,” said Daniel DeVries, Senior Director of Communications and Media Relations at Colgate University.

• ”Cazenovia College is requiring boosters for all who are eligible … We continue to monitor the COVID status in our area and the guidance from health agencies,” added Tim Greene, Director of Communications and Marketing for Cazenovia College.

Greene provided additional guidance from the college: “students returning for the spring semester who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccination will either need to have received their vaccination booster or must have scheduled an appointment to receive the booster shot by the time they return to campus. In either case, students are required to have received the booster no later than Friday, January 21, unless they have a previously approved exemption from the vaccine.”

SUNY/CUNY campuses

In a Dec. 31 release, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced spring semester reopening guidance for State University of New York and City University of New York campuses which includes the continuation of the student vaccine mandate as well as requiring all students regularly accessing campus to receive the COVID-19 booster for the spring semester. 

“Additional requirements for students also include mandatory pre-testing ahead of their semester return, which will apply to all students who plan to regularly access campus,” the release stated. “Each campus will develop and communicate an ongoing testing plan to monitor for positive cases throughout the semester. Campuses will continue to enforce universal indoor masking regardless of vaccination status and social distancing for anyone who is unvaccinated on campus.”

“...as New York State continues to help communities respond to the uptick in COVID cases,” the release also notes.

The guidance continues, “students who are regularly on campus who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster are now required to receive one for the Spring 2022 semester. Campuses must develop a plan and timeframe requirement for students to provide proof of booster vaccination.”

Additionally, Hochul noted, “...campuses must also implement, or continue if they had previously implemented, an ongoing testing program throughout the semester.”

Campuses will develop a random sampling methodology, which will be communicated to students. Campuses may also implement an exemption process for those who have received a booster. All faculty will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.”

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