Dear Siena Community,
I trust you had a merry Christmas, and I wish you all a happy and healthy new year. Reflecting on this past fall, we relished a safe, lively, and prosperous semester, which offered further confirmation that our approach to the virus and commitment to the Siena experience is working. Looking ahead to the spring, I expect the same vibrant atmosphere guided largely by the same protocol that facilitated our successful fall term. However, given the arrival of the omicron variant, it is necessary to make some modifications to our approach, detailed below.
As you know, omicron has proven highly transmissible and is responsible for a surge in positive cases worldwide. Fortunately, omicron is generally far less severe than the still present delta variant and could ultimately effectuate an end to this crisis. I know it may feel like we’re stuck in a never-ending pandemic, but I assure you the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. In our global fight with COVID-19, we’re building knowledge, experience, and, most importantly, immunity. We are on the path to relegating this scourge to endemic status, much like the common cold. In the meantime, we must respect the risks and appropriately adapt to the current climate. To that end, effective for the spring semester:
- All students are required to receive the vaccine booster once eligible (all adults who fully completed the initial Pfizer vaccine series five months ago, the initial Moderna series six months ago, or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago are eligible). We learned this fall that a flourishing Siena experience is predicated on a fully vaccinated community, and it is critical that we strengthen our immunity to limit the impact of the virus. All students who are currently eligible for the booster must receive it before returning to campus. For students who become eligible this spring, the College will be hosting a series of eight on-campus booster clinics for students throughout the semester, beginning on January 27. Once boosted, students must upload an image of their updated COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card to their student health portal. Once boosted, employees are expected to upload an image of their updated COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card to Human Resources using the secure file submission.
- All students are required to take a PCR COVID test 5-7 days (ideally five) before returning to campus. PCR tests are available at most pharmacies, among other locations. Use this resource to find a testing site near you. Please note, a rapid antigen test result will not be accepted for our pre-entry screening. Most testing sites allow you to schedule your PCR test several days in advance, so please plan accordingly and book your test date as soon as possible. Once you test, limit your risk of exposure to the fullest extent possible. Students who have tested positive for COVID within 90 days of campus arrival are exempt from testing, but must provide proof of their positive test. Student Life will email all students later this week with more details, including information on how to submit test results. Anyone exhibiting any symptoms at all should stay off campus until the symptoms subside.
- Wastewater testing will be conducted every other week (an increase over monthly then tri-weekly testing conducted in the fall). Testing sites will be determined by our wastewater field team and the results will be posted to the Daily Digest and included on the Spring 2022 COVID-19 Dashboard, which will launch on January 24. Community members should be knowledgeable of wastewater status in their campus location and closely monitor for any emerging symptoms.
- The less than one half of one percent of students with College-approved exemptions will be required to test weekly (an increase over bi-weekly testing conducted in the fall) and wear masks inside campus buildings, except when in their personal residence room, or when actively eating and drinking
- The College is planning to provide rapid testing options on campus for asymptomatic students interested in testing during the spring semester. We are currently working to secure a supply of rapid tests for this purpose and the Student Life team will be in touch with final details before the start of the semester. Health Services will once again offer diagnostic testing for all symptomatic students.
Masking is, of course, welcomed and encouraged for all fully vaccinated community members desiring additional COVID protection during this high transmission period. Should you do so, for optimal defense, consider a filtering facepiece respirator, such as a N95 disposable mask designed for personal use. Once again this semester, all students are required to have a mask with them, and all faculty have the authority to mandate masking in their classrooms and labs at their own discretion.
The human experience with novel coronaviruses dates back at least 12,000 years. With COVID-19, humanity has once again suffered widespread misery, heartache, and loss, but two years into our fight, this pathogen is no longer “novel.” Like all other coronaviruses, COVID-19 is mutating to be more transmissible but less severe over time for the fully vaccinated. To be clear, we must still do our part to ensure we prevail, but the darkness of the pandemic is giving way to a bright and vibrant future.
Let’s get ready for another great semester! I look forward to seeing you soon.
Christopher P. Gibson '86, Ph.D.