There have been only three cases of COVID-19 reported on campus in the past 21 days. In the same period of time, the number of students completing their vaccination series has more than doubled to nearly 60 percent of the in-person population. Our surveillance testing – the best measure of the health and safety of our community – continues to prove we are winning the war against the virus. We have now reached the threshold of vaccinated community members to comfortably adopt the CDC guidance released in late April: effective immediately, fully vaccinated community members are not required to wear a mask outdoors on campus when alone or in groups of 10 or fewer people. There is no change to operations for unvaccinated community members. All requirements related to masking indoors remain in place. The CDC continues to recommend fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings.
We anticipate changes to the indoor masking policy and other operations for the fall semester that will allow for the return of the full Siena experience. However, that is all predicated on a vaccinated community. Therefore, this fall the COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all Siena students assuming at least one of the vaccines transitions from emergency use to full FDA approval, which we expect to happen this summer. As President Chris Gibson noted in his April 8 message to the community, we fully expect most colleges and universities will mandate COVID-19 vaccination and it will ultimately become codified as part of New York State's post-secondary immunization regulations. Since that message was sent, more than 300 colleges and universities, including all of New York’s public colleges and universities, have announced similar vaccine mandates. On Friday, a bill was introduced to the New York State senate that would require all students attending public or private college in New York to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall.
We have learned from experience this year that a vaccinated population is the surest path to protecting the health and safety of our community and the best way to resume the full and open campus life we have all missed so much. Siena already requires proof of immunity from measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, tuberculosis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Students may apply for a medical or religious exception to the COVID-19 vaccine through the Office of Health Services. Exceptions will be granted in accordance with our policies and New York State immunization laws and regulations.
The COVID-19 vaccine is readily available in New York for all U.S. citizens aged 16+, regardless of home state of residency. Albany County is holding another clinic this Thursday at the Capital Center from 4-7 p.m. and no appointments are needed.
Further changes to our spring operations will be forthcoming if we successfully complete the Siena Vaccination Challenge by the end of the semester. Once approximately 300 more students complete the vaccination process and submit an image of their vaccination card, expect the restrictions related to occupancy and gatherings to be modified.
Since the pandemic first impacted our operations more than a year ago, Siena leadership has followed the science and sought the counsel of experts. Every reputable study proves the benefits and safety of the vaccine, both to individuals and on a macro level. We will continue to move toward 100 percent vaccination on campus, and in the meantime, as long as the virus’s presence on campus remains faint, we will begin to ease COVID-related restrictions for our vaccinated community members.