COVID-19 Update: Continued Planning for Fall 2021
July 6, 2021
Dear University community members:
While our teams are hard at work to ensure a smooth and successful fall semester, we are eager to share some updates with you about what you can expect during the coming weeks ahead of your return to campus.
A “fully-vaccinated” SLU community is key to us returning to normalcy in the fall. A fully-vaccinated community does not mean that 100% of individuals are vaccinated; it allows for those with approved exemptions to be unvaccinated.
Having a fully-vaccinated community means all of us — people who are fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or who are granted a University-approved exemption from vaccination — can work, study, teach, research, minister, dine and socialize without face masks and social distancing. It will be joyous for us to be in community once again.
We know many of you have been awaiting more information about the details of the University’s vaccine requirement, whether we will still have to use #CampusClear, and what on-campus events can/will look like –– among other things.
Preparing for the Fall Semester
We continue to work on refining our COVID-19 prevention guidance for the fall semester, but here are some elements you should anticipate as a fully-vaccinated campus:
- Fall semester COVID-prevention protocols will begin on Aug. 18, the first day of move-in for students who live on campus, and 16 days after staff and faculty return to their on-campus workspaces.
- The COVID-19-prevention protocols of our summer guidance will continue to be applicable through Aug. 17.
- Under the fall plan, all University community members — whether fully or partially vaccinated or having obtained a University-approved vaccine exemption — can study, live and work on our St. Louis campuses without having to wear a face mask or maintain 6 feet of social distance.
- We will not require the regular use of the #CampusClear symptom check app this fall, including for entry into Pius Library and the Simon Recreation Center starting Aug. 18.
- However, we may utilize #CampusClear for large indoor events that involve non-SLU community members.
- Vaccination clinics will be hosted on campus for all members of our University community who need to be vaccinated. Numerous other off-campus clinics and pharmacies, including ones in your hometown, also offer the COVID-19 vaccine for free. Details about dates and times for our on-campus vaccination clinics will be sent in the upcoming weeks as they are finalized.
- SLU will continue to provide time off if employees experience side effects from the second dose.
- We have been watching with some worry the rise in COVID-19 infections among unvaccinated persons throughout Missouri. These are all connected to a COVID-19 variant. We may all find ourselves donning face masks once again in the coming weeks if infection rates in St Louis start to reflect what is happening in other parts of the State. As we have said repeatedly, obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine is your best prevention from getting COVID-19. Public health authorities have stated that masks will not be needed for our campus once our community is fully vaccinated this fall, even with the new variant circulating.
Move-in and Regular Asymptomatic Testing
SLU will require asymptomatic testing at move-in only for those students living on campus who are not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Residential students with University-approved exemptions will need to be tested before move-in. We also will offer optional testing for students living off campus who haven’t been vaccinated and are seeking peace of mind.
Students who are fully vaccinated will not be tested at move-in.
As soon as we have more information about what testing during move-in will look like, we will let you know. We hope to have that information to you by the beginning of August.
As we’re expected to be a fully-vaccinated campus this fall, the University is not planning to conduct regular asymptomatic testing for students throughout the semester, as we did last academic year. But we will conduct cluster testing of unvaccinated students, and possibly vaccinated students, if we see disease spread among small groups of individuals.
And we may conduct broader asymptomatic testing if infection rates were to spike on campus and/or in the St. Louis community. In short, we will do all we can to monitor and actively manage the risk of infection for students, staff and faculty. But, as Dr. Pestello has said many times, vaccination is our best and most protective COVID-19-prevention protocol.
Our student-athletes will fall under NCAA guidelines on COVID-19 testing.
COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement
We are grateful for the many questions from the SLU community about the recently-announced COVID-19 vaccine requirement and appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through logistical issues surrounding the new policy.
With the help of our ITS colleagues, we are developing an online portal that will allow faculty, staff and students to upload their proof of vaccination. Those seeking a religious or medical exemption from the vaccine requirement can use the portal for that as well.
We anticipate the portal will go live during the week of July 11.
Proof of vaccination
- What counts as proof of vaccination? A digital copy of the completed CDC COVID-19 vaccine card, or of a vaccination card provided by the vaccination site where you obtained a World Health Organization-approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- What is the deadline to submit proof that I am fully vaccinated: Aug. 1
- What if I miss the deadline? We’re likely to provide a very brief grace period for fully vaccinated members of our community who may have misplaced their vaccination card and need to seek a replacement from their vaccine provider.
- What if I was vaccinated at the Simon Recreation Center through SLU? You are still required to upload proof of your vaccination into the portal. If you lost your vaccine card, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a replacement.
- What if I am unable to receive the vaccine in my home country, or have only been partially vaccinated? You can let us know your plans to be vaccinated as soon as you arrive in the U.S. by emailing email@example.com. Again, we will have information about our clinics on campus very soon and the vaccines are widely available off campus as well.
Religious or medical exemptions
- What will qualify as a religious or medical exemption?
- Religious: A sincerely held religious belief is one that is either part of a traditional, organized religion such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, as well as non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong, which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views. Social, political or personal preferences do not qualify as a religious belief. If you have received other vaccinations, you will be expected to explain how or why the Covid-19 vaccine is different under your religious belief than the other available vaccines to other diseases that you have received.
- Medical: CDC guidelines about medical reasons one cannot be vaccinated (i.e., medical contraindications) will serve as the basis for our policy. If seeking a medical exemption, as is required for existing vaccine exemptions, you will need to include a letter from your primary licensed healthcare provider detailing your need for medical exemption in your request.
- What doesn’t qualify for a vaccine exemption? Neither prior infection nor antibody test results will qualify as a vaccine exemption.
- What is the deadline to request an exemption? We are considering a possible deadline of July 19 or shortly thereafter. It’s all dependent on getting our portal being tested and launched. Of course, we will provide grace to those who need to see their licensed healthcare provider about obtaining a medical exemption.
- How long will it take for me to know my exemption has been approved? Like many things during this pandemic, we are blazing a new trail. Our goal will be to sort the exemptions and sign-off on those that meet our requirements — and those that clearly do not — as quickly as we can. But we don’t know exactly how many exemption requests we will receive, and we will have to spend time assessing those that require consideration and judgment.
- What if I am denied an exemption? Put simply, we are a community of persons for and with others. To keep our community safe — and to return to the normalcy for which we all long — you are required to be vaccinated to continue teaching, working, living or learning on our St. Louis campuses.
- What if I am already exempt from other vaccines? While existing medical or religious accommodations for SLU-mandated vaccines are helpful to your request for exemption, you will still need to apply for a separate exemption from our COVID-19 vaccine requirement using the forthcoming portal.
- What if my reason for not getting the vaccine is because of distant ties to fetal cell lines? Saint Louis University’s Covid-19 vaccine requirement follows the guidance issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), published after receiving approval from Pope Francis.
The CDF noted that “... all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.” Further, the CDF observed that “ … from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”
At the time of this letter, of the three vaccines most readily available in the U.S., the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were not developed using fetal cell lines. The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine was created in a more traditional manner. Nonetheless, the CDF guidance holds that should the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine not be available or that one’s personal risk requires a “one and done” vaccine, one should accept a J&J or other similar vaccine in support of the common good.
The University’s vaccine requirement also applies to contract employees, including those working for our food partners at Sodexo, our Allied security partners and those involved in technical services and construction.
Sodexo, Allied and all other contract employers will be responsible for managing and enforcing our vaccination requirement for their employees, including collection of proof and processing exemption requests.
The work ahead of us is daunting — just as it was a year ago when we embarked on a commitment to return to residential living and in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester. But we continue to feel immense gratitude to many of you who are bringing innovative ideas and unending hope for a back-to-normalcy fall semester. We offer enormous thanks to those who are helping us think through and help execute our plans. And gratitude for your patience as we continue to work out logistical issues for fall planning.
I look forward to seeing your faces –– your whole faces! –– very soon.
Stay safe and be well,
Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., RN, CIC, FAPIC
Special Assistant to the President
Director, Institute for Biosecurity
Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
College for Public Health and Social Justice