COVID-19 Update: Vaccine Requirement Feedback, End-of-Semester Testing & Policy Updates
May 7, 2021
Dear SLU community members:
With the days of this term dwindling, I am eager to share a series of COVID-19-related updates with you. Likely, my last of the semester!
Return to normalcy
As Dr. Pestello noted in a recent message to the campus, we are planning to operate largely face-to-face this fall semester. We envision full classrooms and labs, and in-person study groups, advising, guest lectures, events, retreats, concerts and other typical campus social gatherings.
To get us there, we have to reach a high level of public health safety. A vaccine requirement among our University community members may best support that goal.
Widespread vaccine adoption also positions us to implement the more relaxed guidance we anticipate seeing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and St. Louis City Department of Health later this summer. Such guidance could reduce or eliminate the need for public safeguards for vaccinated people.
So far, more than 200 colleges and universities have announced some variation on a vaccine requirement for fall semester students. Some are requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for faculty and staff, too.
A vaccinations working group of SLU students, staff and faculty –– one of numerous summer and fall semester planning groups –– is currently assessing if such policies would better ensure our return to normal this fall.
Members of the vaccinations working group include:
- Tricia Austin, Ph.D., Interim Dean, Doisy College of Health Sciences
- Lauren Arnold, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology
- Kira Banks, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology
- Rachel Charney, M.D., Professor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine
- Keon Gilbert, DrPH, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science and Health Education
- Tara Houston, Office of Development
- Renée Jonas, Student Health Center
- Mike May, S.J., Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
- Nina Oforji, Student
- Zahva Naeem, Student
- Chris Prener, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Sociology
- Taylor Stalling, Student
- Danielle Uy, Office of General Counsel
- Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., Special Assistant to the President
We understand vaccine acceptance and adoption, and the reality of the pandemic, have become incredibly polarizing topics for some. Many communities of various intersecting identities that may be defined but not limited to political affiliation, religion, race, ethnicity, gender and income have expressed concern about the currently available vaccines.
We also acknowledge the historical injustices many communities have endured that result in lower levels of trust in government, the pharmaceutical industry, and higher education’s own role in vaccine development.
The task of the vaccinations working group is to provide a recommendation to Dr. Pestello that will take into account these experiences and to incorporate a sense of equity to prevent further harm.
You are welcome to provide your view on a vaccine requirement policy here or by emailing email@example.com. Please convey your observations on or before May 12. Your observations will be shared with members of the working group. The working group’s recommendations will be sent to Dr. Pestello by May 18th.
Vaccinated persons & face masks
Earlier this week, St. Louis City public health authorities revised their guidance on face mask use by vaccinated persons.
Here’s what that means for SLU during the final weeks of the term:
- Effectively immediately, you do not need to wear a mask when outside on campus if
you are fully vaccinated. You are still required to keep a safe, social distance from
- We’re relying on the honor system for affirming your vaccine status.
- Masks and social distancing are still required inside of all public spaces on campus, such as classrooms, labs, libraries, etc., regardless of your vaccination status.
- We ask that students continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing when visiting with one another in your on-campus residences through the end of the spring semester.
- We will revise these policies this summer and as we look toward the fall.
- This summer, we will also provide guidance on what the revised mask guidance means for employees working on campus. Employees should continue to wear their face masks and maintain a safe, social distance from each other, regardless of vaccination status.
Finally, should you attend any on-campus commencement events that have been approved by the Designated Events Review team, be sure to review the public health safeguards that are required of you.
Vaccines & final exams
We recognize that many of our students are registered to get the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine next week, and that possible side effects could interfere with final exams. The vaccine team has expanded the offerings for second doses to help alleviate some of that stress.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will work with you to reschedule your current appointment.
No end-of-semester COVID-19 testing
SLU will not offer optional end-of-semester COVID-19 testing before students head home for summer.
We made this decision after reviewing the very low infection rates on campus and in the community, and considering that managing and staffing our vaccination clinics continues to be a priority of our pandemic response team.
If you are interested in getting tested before summer travel, there are many options in the community. The St. Louis Health Department is a great resource to find affordable –– and free, in some cases –– testing. Walk-in testing is available at many sites. Students who are experiencing symptoms should contact Student Health at 314-977-2323.
Summer pause on updates to the COVID-19 dashboard
SLU will not be providing twice-weekly updates to the COVID-19 dashboard as we have done throughout the fall and spring semesters. There are a number of reasons for this pause:
- Our campus infection rates are extremely low (zero positive students in the past 10 days, no asymptomatic positive cases since mid-March, and consistently low positivity rates since late February)
- Community infection rates are very low
- We won't have very many students on campus this summer
- We are not currently conducting random sample asymptomatic testing of students living in on-campus housing.
The final spring update to the dashboard will be Thursday, May 20.
We will continue to collect and analyze COVID-19 infection data for our on-campus student population throughout the summer. If we see an increase in cases, suspect an outbreak on campus, or identify other concerning data from our Contact Tracing team, we will consider re-starting dashboard updates. We plan to resume dashboard updates in the fall semester when students return to campus.
Thank you for all that you do to keep SLU safe. I look forward to sharing more updates with you in the weeks to come as we plan for the summer and fall terms.
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