News detailing the spread of the Delta variant is everywhere. The volume can skew our perspective. So when building a strategy to maintain the health and safety of everyone on Oberlin’s campus, it is important to consider how far we have come in our approach to coping with COVID.
A year ago, we were preparing to welcome students to a dedensified campus where our main defense against the virus was a multi-layered strategy that depended upon a newly designed and ambitious testing protocol, social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks, quarantines, and other responsible behavior. Vaccines were under development.
Our commitment to one another during that time was remarkable. Our positivity rate of 0.23 percent exceeded expectations. We were able to keep our campus safe until vaccines became widely available in the spring semester.
Now, we know these vaccines are effective at preventing the spread of COVID and in most cases keeping people from becoming severely ill.
For the past several months, the vaccine has been administered under an emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. News reports now indicate that full FDA approval is imminent. With this in mind, Oberlin will require all students to be fully vaccinated within 45 days of the FDA’s announced approval. Students who have health or religious reasons preventing them from becoming vaccinated may fill out an exemption form and apply for special consideration. The process by which you can fill out the exemption form will be forthcoming.
We base our ObieSafe policies on data and the guidance of public health professionals. With full FDA approval of the vaccine expected, it is now time to require this of students, who live in a congregant setting where they share rooms, restrooms, dining facilities, practice rooms and other accommodations.
It is critical that students demonstrate proof of vaccination by uploading their vaccination card to Student Health or filling out the health or religious exemption form.
Failure to provide appropriate documentation may result in students not being able to attend class, and ultimately could lead to removal from campus.
We also strongly recommend that all faculty and staff get fully vaccinated. We encourage the staff of our vendors, especially those who work indoors including AVI in dining and Scioto in custodial service, get fully vaccinated as well.
University Hospitals, which is operating our Student Health Center, and Lorain County Public Health have told us that high vaccination rates on campus will help in the fight against the Delta variant. Currently, more than 80 percent of students, faculty, and staff are fully vaccinated. We are working to determine the vaccination rates of AVI and Scioto employees who regularly work on campus. We will update all percentages as we approach the beginning of the fall semester.
Earlier this week, I announced that we would follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and require that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear a mask indoors, unless they are in their residence or office with the door closed. The positive response was swift and impressive, which came as no surprise. We expected that Obies would care for our community and don their masks without delay, and you did not disappoint!
As I promised earlier this week, we will provide updates via email, video, online Q&A, and webinars. Please see the ObieSafe website for updated policies and FAQ that is meant to address your most immediate questions about safety protocols.
The Delta variant has proven to be resilient, but so are Obies! So continue to enjoy your summer. And please, remember to get your vaccine and upload your card!
Carmen Twillie Ambar