Updates on COVID-19 and Spring Public Health Protocols at Boston University

The following was sent to all members of the Boston University Community on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021 from Dr. Judy Platt, MD

Dear Members of our Boston University Community, 

Since I last wrote regarding the COVID-19 Mid-Semester Report, there are several important updates to share today. While many were hopeful that Delta might be the last variant of concern, it is now expected that new COVID-19 variants will continue to arise until we have robust global vaccination. The most recent variant of concern, Omicron, was detected in Massachusetts on December 4th 2021, and we are learning more about this variant daily. We anticipate that in the coming weeks we will have more definitive information on whether Omicron causes more severe disease or significantly increased transmission. While vaccines have been critical in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations, and death, breakthrough infections are increasing as vaccine effectiveness wanes. Please read the information below carefully to learn about COVID-19 booster eligibility and mandates, travel guidance, how we are actively learning from our community, and what Boston University is planning for the upcoming spring semester.   

COVID-19 Booster Vaccination Eligibility and Requirements

On December 9th 2021 the CDC announced that everyone 16 years and older who completed a vaccine series 6 months earlier (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech) or 2 months earlier (Johnson & Johnson) is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot. With the intersession recess quickly approaching, we strongly recommend that everyone take this time to get a COVID-19 booster at one of the vaccination sites in your area. A COVID-19 Booster dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson will be required of all eligible faculty, staff, affiliates, and students. This booster dose should be received as soon as you are eligible and uploaded by February 4th, 2022.  By this date over 95% of our community will have already been eligible for a booster. However, anyone not yet eligible by this date will be granted temporary compliance until they become eligible.  Our community members who were vaccinated outside of the US and have received a WHO-authorized COVID-19 vaccine that was not also approved or authorized by the FDA will be required to receive a booster dose at least 6 months after their last COVID-19 vaccination.

In addition to public vaccination sites around the city and state, members of our community may also choose to receive their booster at the Boston Medical Center Vaccination Clinic at the Dowling building.  This site is located next to our Boston University Medical Campus and a short walk from the BU Medical Campus shuttle stop. Boston University will also be offering a limited number of booster clinics on our Charles River campus again in January and will update our Back2BU Vaccination page accordingly with these dates. Once you have received a booster be sure to upload this information to the student or employee portals.  

Travel

As we continue to monitor the emerging cases from the Delta and Omicron variants and COVID-19 regulations, please be aware of the updated testing and travel guidelines specific to your destination and for your return to our BU campus. There is a new update, that went into effect on December 6th 2021, for all travelers entering the United States requiring everyone to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test no more than 1 day before travel to the United States. Plan ahead before travel and “know before you go” by checking the CDC’s Traveler’s Health site.  

Finals Period and Intersession 

December can be an especially challenging time for some of our community members and COVID-19 makes it more difficult. Many resources across campus exist to provide support including Faculty & Staff Assistance Office programming for employees and Student Health Services for individual and group support for students. If you have not had a chance, consider taking advantage of the University’s subscription to Headspace for students, faculty, and staff. 

Campus Collaborations and Sequencing at the NEIDL 

We have learned a great deal about reducing transmission on our campus. Researchers at the NEIDL and public health professionals at Healthway have had ongoing collaboration to combine sequencing and case investigation efforts to understand COVID-19 dynamics and transmission on campus. Sequencing can identify the exact variant as well as linkages to other cases at BU.  We sequence every positive sample at Boston University so that we can also detect when new variants show up on our campus. Transmission is overwhelmingly occurring among unmasked, social encounters with repeated and prolonged contact. We are continually learning from our data and are using this to help guide our evolving health protocols.  

Spring Public Health Protocols  

In addition to our new COVID-19 booster mandate, which will be required of all Boston University members, we will continue with many of our current public health protocols.  We are pleased to announce some adjustments, which will take place on January 12th 2022, and we hope these will make it easier for everyone to continue keeping the campus as safe as possible.

Daily Health Attestation/Symptom Checking: There will no longer be a daily symptom attestation. Regular email reminders will be sent to all faculty, staff, affiliates, and students in our testing program to be aware of the possible symptoms of COVID-19 and to schedule a symptomatic test as needed.

COVID-19 Symptomatic Testing: There will no longer be a need to speak with a nurse if you have symptoms. All members of our community will now be able to self-schedule a symptomatic test through the patient portal and present for a test at the Health Services Annex located behind Agganis Arena at 925 Commonwealth Avenue, Rear Entrance. Tests collected at the Health Services Annex receive highest priority so that you will know if you need to officially isolate as soon as possible. You will still have the option to call Healthway to speak with a nurse for guidance and are encouraged to stay home if you are not feeling well, even if your COVID-19 test comes back negative.

Routine COVID-19 Community Testing: Once weekly community testing and testing upon arrival to campus will continue to be required for all faculty, staff, affiliates, and students who come to campus. Students, faculty, and staff on the Medical Campus will continue to test at our observed collection site on that campus. Charles River faculty and staff will be able to drop off test kits at any collection site kiosk when they schedule an appointment. Students on the Charles River Campus will continue to test at the 808 Commonwealth Avenue site.

Stay-in-Place Advisory: All members of our community are strongly recommended to complete a COVID-19 test upon your return to campus at the start of the spring semester at a BU Collection Site and observe a stay-in-place until you receive a negative test.  

Automated Positive Test Results: All members will continue to be contacted by a Healthway nurse if they test positive, but we are also going to release these results immediately in the patient portals so that all members can know their status as soon as possible and begin to notify their close contacts quickly.

Indoor Masking: Our indoor mask mandate will be in place as we start the semester. This will continue as long as community transmission is elevated.  

Back2BU Updates 

Please continue to monitor our Back2BU website over the intersession recess for test collection site and Healthway hours, booster vaccine clinic dates, and COVID-19 campus updates. 

Thank you all for continuing to stay informed and keeping our campus safe, 

 

Judy Platt, MD
Chief Health Officer
Executive Director of Student Health Services 

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