UB no longer considers students who have not provided documentation of a COVID-19 booster shot to be “fully vaccinated,” the university announced before the semester. Those with “regular on-campus contact” are required to undergo weekly surveillance testing, according to campus guidelines.
UB says it will continue to enforce the university’s COVID-19 booster requirements, announcing revised health and safety guidelines for the semester last Monday.
In accordance with SUNY’s updated surveillance testing policy, UB now defines “fully vaccinated” as having received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and a booster dose, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a booster dose.
Students who are not considered fully vaccinated under the updated criteria are required to register for weekly surveillance testing until they receive the booster. This includes students with medical or religious exemptions. No appointment is necessary and testing is free of charge. Students looking to get their booster can head to a clinic on pre-determined days.
On-campus testing and vaccine sites can be found on North Campus, in 11 Talbert Hall, on South Campus, in 100 Allen Hall and at 2211 Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in the Downtown Campus.
Thomas Russo, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the UB Department of Medicine, is asking the campus community to remain vigilant and to comply with university COVID-19 guidelines as the spring semester gets underway.
“The first several weeks coming back, we need to be really careful,” Russo said. “This is not the moment to drop our guard or become lackadaisical. And as we know, the best way to protect yourself is getting that booster shot.”.
UB’s booster requirements are in line with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s statewide mandate from late December, which requires all SUNY and CUNY students to get their booster vaccine upon becoming eligible.
“We need to ensure students in New York are able to stay in school and learn in person throughout the spring semester,” Gov. Hochul said in her announcement. “Students deserve to have a safe and high-quality in-person college experience.”
Following the state’s directive, UB announced “spring start-up” plans that required returning students to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival and to submit booster documentation by Jan. 31 or within one week of booster eligibility.
As of Feb. 2, UB is reporting approximately 24,000 students are verified booster recipients, with another 1,800 eligible students yet to submit documentation.
In addition to mandatory surveillance testing, UB has punitive measures in place for noncompliance with the university’s booster mandate. Students who fail to meet their booster deadline are set to be de-registered from their in-person classes.
The university has also outlined expectations for compliance with revised public health guidelines this semester.
UB’s mask mandate will remain in effect throughout all indoor facilities and outdoor events with over 100 people, regardless of vaccination status. Guidelines also require complete coverage over the nose and mouth for proper mask wear. Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is also required for everyone ages five and older to attend public events at Alumni Arena and at the Center for the Arts and Slee Hall.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate and quarantine either at home or on-campus in designated residence halls: Clement Hall or the Flickinger Court Apartments. Students are also responsible for contacting their professors to make up coursework.
Those noncompliant with public health directives in public spaces on campus will be asked to comply by university officials and staff. Continued noncompliance will result in forcible removal by UPD, according to the university.
While Russo echoed a cautionary stance on the importance of adhering to COVID-19 guidelines early on in the semester, he remains optimistic that a lower burden of disease by late February or early March in the region could pave a way to normalcy in campus life.
“I’m hoping,” Russo said. “I think it’s going to be the closest to normal we’ve seen since this pandemic began.”
Kyle Nguyen is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyle Nguyen is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum.