COVID-19 Update

To: The Rensselaer Community

From: Martin Schmidt '81, Ph.D., President

Re: COVID-19 Update

Heading into Spring Break, I would like to take this opportunity to update you on COVID-19. We have come a long way since the pandemic began three years ago. As Les Lawrence, M.D., has reported to me, while COVID infections are still being reported regularly across the U.S., the volume of cases has declined and the numbers with severe illness has declined significantly. Among those who have been vaccinated and had at least one booster, it is rare to see the symptoms of COVID-19 be more than a moderate cold-like illness to a mild flu-like illness. On our campus, where almost everyone has been vaccinated and had at least one booster, most of our positive cases have resulted in mild to moderate cold-like symptoms and a few people have experienced few or no symptoms while infected. In contrast, influenza has been causing symptoms that are more significant and has resulted in some in our community to experience serious illness.

The federal government recently announced that the emergency declaration for the pandemic will be ending May 11, and they will consider COVID-19 endemic. Many other experts are also stating that we are exiting the pandemic phase of COVID and entering the endemic phase. Because of the improving state of the COVID outbreak, and thanks to your diligence and cooperation with our health guidance, we are able to relax our COVID protocols and are implementing the following changes.  

As of March 6, we will no longer:
•    use green, yellow, or red tiers to direct our response or requirements on campus.
•    report COVID numbers or COVID tiers on a COVID dashboard. The dashboard will be discontinued.
•    require negative tests before returning to campus after travel or breaks.

We will continue to:
•    provide PCR testing for anyone who feels ill or has been exposed. You can pick up the vials for PCR testing and drop off the specimens in the basement of Academy Hall 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday – Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. on Thursday.
•    distribute antigen tests (quick tests) to anyone who would like them for home use. These can be picked up in the Academy Hall basement during the hours listed above for testing.
•    have each positive person isolate for five days, day one being the day after your positive test.
•    report positive students to Student Success so that an excused absence note will go to each of your professors for the five (5) days of isolation.
•    report each employee positive to HR and their supervisor so that they will expect the positive to be out of work for the five (5) days of isolation.
•    require COVID-19 vaccinations for all new and current students, faculty, and staff in the coming 2023-2024 academic year.
•    track COVID-19 trends nationally and worldwide so that we will be able to reinstate precautions early if trends necessitate.

Your commitment to protecting one another has been a significant factor in our ability to mitigate the spread of this virus on campus. Vaccinations have also been a contributing factor. In addition to requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, we strongly encourage everyone to get the influenza vaccine each year.

As always, if you have flu or COVID symptoms, or feel unwell, please stay home and follow your physician’s guidance. Students should visit the Health Center.

Helpful Prevention Tips:
1.    Get vaccinated and stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.
2.    Wear a mask if you are at high risk or unvaccinated.
3.    Test to prevent spread to others – before visiting unvaccinated or vulnerable individuals, you could test to be sure you do not have COVID-19.
4.    Maintain social distancing during surges of COVID-19.
5.    Wash your hands often.
6.    Cover coughs and sneezes.
7.    Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
8.    Monitor your health daily and stay home if ill.

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