COVID-19 Update: Vaccination Requirement for External Events Indoors; Boosters for All; Omicron Variant; Flu Season
December 9, 2021
Dear students, staff, faculty, parents, and alumni:
As we approach the end of a second fall semester during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are entering another pandemic wave brought on by the Delta variant.
Our campus community has been afforded a great deal of protection due to our vaccine requirement policy and mask mandate. Yet even we are seeing increasing cases among our community members, most of which appear to be tied to Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends or other social events where individuals were unmasked.
COVID-19 infection rates are expected to remain high until after the winter holidays. In light of this, we ask you to consider carefully your holiday plans.
If you have in-person holiday parties planned for these final weeks of the fall semester, please consider moving them outdoors, spreading out while eating, or postponing them until community transmission rates are lower. This recommendation is offered with your health and safety in mind. But we leave it to you to decide.
Here in the President’s office, where everyone is vaccinated, we have reluctantly begun postponing holiday gatherings hosted by President Pestello and Dr. Fran Pestello. As fun and joyous as these events are, we’ve decided they are not worth the risk. When we determine that disease spread has decreased to a more safe, less risky level, we will reschedule those celebrations.
Requiring proof of vaccination or negative test for external events held indoors
Starting on Saturday, December 18, to gain admission to any external event held indoors on our St. Louis campuses, all attendees will be required to either show proof of being fully vaccinated or proof of a negative COVID-19 test. This includes all members of our SLU community who have submitted proof of vaccination or have an approved exemption from our vaccination policy.
An external event is one for which greater than 10% of the attendees are considered guests from outside the SLU campus community. You may read the guidance on external events here.
Our COVID-19 team has discussed this issue at length and decided that it is vital that we implement this change now. There are several factors influencing our decision:
- Our campus, city and state, and the U.S. as a whole, are all seeing large increases in COVID-19 cases, and these high rates are expected to continue throughout the winter holiday season.
- All other large event venues in St. Louis, including the Enterprise Center and the Fox Theatre, have already implemented such a vaccination/negative test policy. This has become the industry standard in the St. Louis region.
- We also are seeing poor mask compliance at SLU’s large indoor events. Many individuals are wearing their mask into the event only to remove it once inside and leave it off for all or most of the event. Reminders are not as effective as they were earlier in the pandemic.
To be considered fully vaccinated, you must be at least 14 days after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or at least 14 days after your single dose of the J & J vaccine. SLU community members and non-SLU attendees/guests should bring a copy of their vaccination card or a picture of it on their phones.
SLU community members and non-SLU attendees/guests who cannot provide proof of vaccination can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event. At this time, we will allow either a rapid antigen or PCR test from a healthcare or pharmacy provider for admittance to an external event. You may bring a copy of your negative test result or a picture of it on your phone. Self-administered tests will not be accepted.
We do not plan to have testing available on-site, although this might change in the future. Details for each event will be available closer to the date of the event.
Please bring a photo ID along with proof of vaccination or negative test.
Children under the age of 12 are exempt from this policy. But they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who meets the vaccination or negative test requirements.
In addition to these new protocols, all attendees over the age of 2 at SLU events must wear their face masks while indoors.
A face mask may be removed for a brief period of time to eat or take a drink of a beverage, but when finished, attendees are expected to return their face mask to cover their nose and mouth. It is not acceptable to be unmasked for long periods of time at any of our indoor events.
As with all of our COVID-19 safeguards and policies, we will continue to monitor local and national infection trends and modify our protocols in response as needed. When we believe it is safe to loosen restrictions, such as the vaccination/negative test policy, we will consider doing so.
Influenza and college students
At the same time that COVID-19 cases are rising, the influenza season has officially begun in the St. Louis region and on campus. Local public health officials reported that flu cases increased 50% this week compared to last week.
Nationally, the CDC has reported multiple flu outbreaks on college campuses this fall. Currently, we are not seeing a flu outbreak on campus. But our Student Health Center has reported seeing a large number of cases among our students.
It is possible to be co-infected with both COVID-19 and the flu.
Influenza vaccination is the single best protection against the flu. COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu. If you haven’t been vaccinated against the flu already, we highly recommend that you get your flu shot right away. You can get the flu vaccine at most local pharmacies. You can find a list of available flu vaccine clinics here.
Omicron is a new variant of concern
On November 24, a new strain of COVID-19 was identified in South Africa and was named a new “variant of concern.” This new variant, named omicron, was associated with rapidly increasing infection rates in South Africa and quickly spread to other countries, including the U.S.
On Monday, public health authorities identified the first case of omicron in Missouri and it was/is in St Louis. Scientists are working quickly to determine the transmissibility and virulence of this new strain, as well as the extent to which our current vaccines protect against it. Right now, it is much too early to draw any conclusions.
We will monitor the situation closely and are prepared to pivot our safeguards as needed.
Boosters & pediatric doses
We strongly encourage members of our University community to obtain a booster vaccination dose.
The FDA has approved a booster dose for all adults over the age of 18 years who completed their vaccine series with Pfizer or Moderna at least 6 months ago. Those who received the J & J vaccine at least two months ago were already eligible for a booster dose.
The FDA also approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children over the age of 5.
All eligible individuals may receive a booster or pediatric dose through our vaccination clinics on campus, even if they are not a member of our SLU community. Our vaccination clinics are every Tuesday through December 14. They will resume in mid-January when the campus re-opens for the spring semester.
As always, please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can’t find the answer to your question on SLU’s website.
Thanks so much for your commitment to OneSLU and protecting the public health on our St. Louis campuses and in our city.
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