COVID-19 Update: Spring Return-to-Campus Testing, Boosters, Dashboard
December 22, 2021
To the Saint Louis University community,
We have completed another successful semester during which we have returned to almost pre-pandemic conditions in terms of the number of students on campus, full classrooms, and a wide variety of student activities. And we have done it safely, with no documented transmission in our classrooms, lab spaces, or work environments.
Thank you for all you did throughout the fall semester to protect yourselves, classmates, colleagues, and our St. Louis community — and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, as we move into the winter holidays, we are once again facing a rapidly changing pandemic landscape, this time due to the Omicron variant.
News of the enormous impact Omicron is having on campuses in the northeastern U.S. is worrisome. Preliminary data from scientists around the world report Omicron to be highly contagious, even more so than the Delta variant. Most vaccinated individuals appear to have fairly mild symptoms. But data on Omicron and severity of disease among unvaccinated persons is conflicting. Based on preliminary data about Omicron and past variants, those who are over the age of 65, immunocompromised, or have pre-existing conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes remain at high risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death.
Our team has been and will continue monitoring the situation very closely. We are preparing for a safe return to campus in mid-January, and, as always, remain nimble to address the changing pandemic threat to our community members.
Please check your email before returning to campus for any updates to our campus safeguards. We may need to pivot quickly to more robust protocols in order to prevent disease spread on our St. Louis campuses, in the city and across our nation.
In today’s message, we wish to update you on a few critical COVID-19 items of note, including information about:
- Spring return-to-campus testing requirements
- Booster dose updates
- SLU’s COVID-19 dashboard
Spring return-to-campus testing requirements for unvaccinated and not-fully vaccinated students
New this spring: all graduate and undergraduate students who are not fully vaccinated
must be tested for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours prior to returning to campus for
spring semester studies, work and research.
Students who are 100% remote for the spring semester do not need to be tested.
We believe it’s prudent to expand our return-to-campus testing for spring due to these factors:
- Preliminary data on the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
- The high number of off-campus students who tested positive for COVID-19 this past fall.
- Expected high community infection rates in mid-January when we re-open.
- Our ability to provide at-home test kits to our students.
We would have preferred to wait a few more weeks to see confirmatory data on the Omicron
variant before making this type of decision, but considering the high speed of Omicron
infections occurring in our country, we don’t have that luxury.
The return-to-campus testing requirement applies to all students who are not fully vaccinated and who plan to study, research, work or mission on campus this spring semester, no matter if they live on- or off-campus, including:
- Students in the process of becoming fully vaccinated but won’t be fully vaccinated by move-in, or
- Students who were granted a religious or medical exemption from our vaccination requirement.
For now, we are following the current CDC definition of being fully vaccinated: at
least 14 days past the second dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or a single
dose of the J & J vaccine.
We anticipate that the CDC or St. Louis public health officials will soon require a booster dose as part of the definition of being “fully vaccinated.” However, for the purposes of spring return-to-campus testing, we will use the current definition.
You are required to be tested for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before moving back
into your residence hall or off-campus apartment/residence. For those staying in their
off-campus residence during winter break or returning prior to the start of the spring
semester, your test must be completed within 72 hours of the first day of class on
Tuesday, January 18.
To make the testing process as easy as possible, we will ship a saliva PCR test kit to your home during winter break so that you can test yourself prior to coming to campus. We will use the permanent address that we have listed for you in Banner. Please make sure that Banner reflects the address to which you want your test kit mailed. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address if you are unsure if your address is updated in Banner.
Test kit instructions will review how to provide and properly seal your saliva sample. Please drop off the sample return box at a FedEx location the same day you provide your saliva sample or contact FedEx to schedule a pick-up. Samples cannot be shipped on Sundays.
You also may choose to be tested at a community testing site of your choice instead of using the home test kit, but it must be a PCR test and it must be collected within 72 hours of your arrival on campus. You can find a community test site by using this tool.
If you choose to use a local community testing site, please do not open the kit we had shipped to you. Please return it to our testing clinic in Simon Rec. We will put it to good use.
If you arrive on campus without proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed in the past 72 hours or without having submitted your saliva sample for the home test kit, you will be required to be tested in Simon Recreation center before the start of spring classes. You will not need to quarantine while waiting for your test results.
If you are not yet fully vaccinated, please schedule a time to get your second dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at a community vaccination site. You must receive your second dose at least two weeks prior to returning to campus for the spring semester in order to avoid the return-to-campus testing requirement.
Optional testing available for all fully vaccinated students
COVID-19 testing will be available in the Simon Recreation Center for all fully vaccinated
students who wish to be tested prior to the start of classes. You do not need an appointment.
You may simply come to Simon Rec to be tested during clinic hours.
Details about the days/times of testing clinics in Simon Rec will be sent out closer to the start of the spring semester. Please watch your email for more information.
We may require periodic or regular testing of students this spring semester if circumstances warrant. This could include unvaccinated and fully vaccinated students, both on- or off campus. Our goal, as always, is to maintain a safe environment for students, employees, and visitors.
A booster dose requirement is likely for all vaccinated students, staff and faculty
We highly encourage all who are eligible to get your booster dose now or during winter
We expect that the booster dose will soon be part of the CDC and City’s definition of being fully vaccinated and will be added to our vaccine requirement policy at some point in the future. Plus, the booster dose should provide added protection for you and those around you, making our community safer for everyone.
Preliminary data on the Omicron variant indicates that receiving a booster dose of vaccine is more effective at preventing infection than simply being vaccinated with the one- or two-dose regimen. The data is still evolving in this area and we are monitoring it closely.
As we mentioned in our December 9 update, the FDA has authorized 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.
Possible expanded COVID safeguards for spring semester
The preliminary data on the Omicron variant and its impact on college campuses is
sobering. As such, our team has started discussions about contingency plans for ways
to keep campus safe and as open as possible this spring.
Here are just some potential safeguards we are considering/discussing:
- Decreasing student activities or capacities at student events.
- Restricting external events, especially when food and beverages are being consumed.
- Limiting or restricting visitors between residence hall buildings.
- Limiting eat-in options in dining halls and switching to more grab-and-go options.
- Increasing asymptomatic surveillance testing of students, regardless of vaccination status or whether they live on- or off-campus.
Other more drastic actions such as postponing the start of the spring semester by
one or more weeks or beginning the semester fully online would be considered in the
worst of cases. In the meantime, far more reasonable safeguards can help prevent disease
transmission on our St. Louis campuses and in our city — and ensure we remain open
safely. When our plans are finalized, we shall inform you.
Our team remains flexible to respond to this ever-evolving situation.
SLU’s COVID-19 dashboard
Just as we did last year, the University will be pausing updates on our COVID-19 dashboard during winter break. The final update for the fall semester was yesterday, Tuesday,
Weekly dashboard updates will resume on Tuesday, January 25, after we return for the spring semester. The fall semester data will be archived on the dashboard website so that you can access all of our prior COVID-19 student and employee data.
Thank you again for your continued cooperation with our COVID-19 safeguards, and congratulations on
another successful fall semester.
As always, if you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com.
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