c/o Andrew Lu, Assistant Photo Editor

c/o Andrew Lu, Assistant Photo Editor

The University announced that the COVID-19 policies in place at the end of the spring semester in 2022 would remain in effect this semester in a campus-wide email on Wednesday, Aug. 10 from Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney. Although students, faculty, and staff are still required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and masking is optional, quarantine procedures have been updated, and the new bivalent vaccine is not currently required.

“Get vaccinated and boosted,” McLarney wrote in an email to The Argus. “Get your flu shot. Consider wearing a mask (this is an option and not a mandate, but it is a good option). Wash your hands. If you have mild symptom[s], take a COVID test. If positive, report it and isolate. If negative, mask until your symptoms resolve. You may retest daily if symptoms persist. If you have severe symptoms (high fever, chest pain, bad cough etc.) contact the Health Center.” 

According to the updated guidelines for Fall 2022, the University no longer views COVID-19 as a health emergency and instead will treat it like the flu or any similar seasonal illness. Most of these policies encourage students to take individual responsibility for the COVID-19 response, rather than following strict policies regimented by the University. 

“We have come a long way in the past 2 1/2 years regarding the pandemic,” McLarney wrote. “Effective vaccines are available…. Many experts are saying that we have left the pandemic stage and are now in the epidemic stage.”

The policy on masking is unchanged from last semester. Masking is fully optional for fully vaccinated students, faculty, and staff members. However, professors and departments are allowed to specifically request that students are masked in their classes or facilities. Additionally, masking is still required in the Davison Health Center. 

Although both masking and testing are optional, the University will still be providing masks to students at Usdan University Center and rapid tests for symptomatic students at the Davison Health Center. The University won’t be providing students with PCR tests, but they are available at local pharmacies and outpatient clinics.

The University encouraged, but did not require, students to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before arriving on campus. According to Dr. McLarney, about 10 students reported positive tests pre-arrival.

Because students are no longer required to report negative test results, the University has discontinued the COVID-19 dashboard, which previously included data on student, faculty, and staff test results.

“The utility of a dashboard at this time may not be helpful,” McLarney wrote. “It is more important to know what the general climate of COVID is in the community. We should all be practicing appropriate infection control measures (the same ones we practice every year during flu season: hand washing, self care when we are sick, vaccination).”

Continuing the policy of previous semesters, students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors are expected to be fully vaccinated, including a booster. 

“As you know, the new bivalent vaccine with better efficacy against BA.4 and BA.5 [COVID variants has] just been approved,” McLarney wrote. “Local pharmacies will soon if not already have these. [By] contacting the pharmacies, one can make an appointment. In the next several weeks, we may see other clinics available in town sponsored by the Middletown Health Dept.” 

While the bivalent vaccine, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization on Aug. 31, is not required, it is highly recommended by the University.

“We will monitor the current COVID-19 climate with the major variables being severe disease and hospitalizations,” McLarney wrote. “I would advise everyone who does not have a contraindication to getting the vaccine to get it.”

Quarantine procedures, for the most part, have not changed from last semester. Students who test positive for COVID-19 still isolate in their residences, pick up meals to-go from campus dining locations, and mask when outside their residences. Unlike last semester, students will now isolate in their residences regardless of whether they have a roommate or not, as opposed to the previous policy of moving to the Inn at Middletown for the duration of their quarantine. According to McLarney, immunocompromised roommates of students who test positive can still relocate to the Inn.

“On a near fully vaccinated campus we felt this was…similar to a person diagnosed with the flu (those students are not removed from their residence),” McLarney wrote. “Also by the time one is diagnosed with COVID, [their] roommate(s) have already been exposed. Once a case and roommate know that [the] person has COVID, they will take precautions (not sharing food/drink).”

Beginning on the fifth day since the positive test result or the start of symptoms, students can leave isolation if they test negative. If they are still testing positive, they can leave isolation after 10 days.

“We know that the SARS CoV-2 virus is no longer viable at that time,” McLarney wrote. 

Students should report positive test results and symptoms through the COVID-19 Health Update form in their WesPortal and inform close contacts—anyone they have been within six feet of for 15 minutes or more in the 48 hours before testing positive—of the positive test result. Asymptomatic close contacts are no longer required to quarantine, although they should test about five days after contact and wear a mask indoors and outdoors for ten days.

According to McLarney, the University has switched to personal outreach for close contact tracing because close contact tracing by the Health Center has been rendered redundant by students reaching out to close contacts last semester, and simpler quarantine procedures that no longer need to be explained to close contacts by medical staff. However, if a student wishes to remain anonymous, the Health Center can reach out to close contacts for them.

“Early in the pandemic, there appeared to be a stigma for those who had [COVID-19],” McLarney wrote. “This was based on inaccurate perceptions. Any of us can contract it, the same as the flu. In the past, whenever I did contact tracing, the majority of close contacts had already been notified by the positive case.”

The Pandemic Planning Committee will continue to consider campus vaccination rates, hospitalization and death rates in Middletown, and global COVID-19 updates, such as new vaccines and variants, when deciding University policies.

“Dealing with the pandemic is like sailing a ship,” McLarney wrote. “When facing a storm, you change course. The pandemic committee will be monitoring the situation regularly and adjusting protocols to assure safety.”


Yoni Semel can be reached at ysemel@wesleyan.edu.

Elias Mansell can be reached at emansell@wesleyan.edu.

Comments are closed