Preparing for In-Person Classes During the Omicron Surge
The following message with updates and reminders about COVID-19 guidelines was sent to the Drexel community.
- All eligible students, faculty and professional staff must get a booster shot and record it in the Drexel Health Checker. Booster shots are also available on campus.
- Now is the time to upgrade your mask (see below).
- Get tested before coming to campus if possible; if positive, isolate at home following the latest CDC guidance.
- Philadelphia’s indoor dining vaccination mandate is now in effect; please be prepared to show proof of vaccination for off-campus dining.
- Campus facilities are currently open.
- Drexel has checked all facilities to ensure that they meet ventilation standards; if you have questions about a specific space, please contact your building or department manager.
- All visitors to Drexel must complete the Drexel Visitor Health Checker Pass AND provide proof of full vaccination in the print or digital form of a vaccination card that matches personal identification.
- Please stay tuned as Drexel continues to set data-supported COVID guidelines in response to pandemic conditions and advances in science.
Dear Drexel Students and Colleagues,
It’s been almost two years of pandemic and disruptions. Yet with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, differences in vaccination levels, and seemingly constant changes in national, state and local guidelines, the path forward at the start of this winter term can feel more uncertain and confusing than ever for many of us. There is simply no “one-size-fits-all” guidance at this time of unprecedented community viral transmission and infection. During this period of remote instruction and high COVID caseloads, we are working hard to adapt available information for our campus community.
While the majority of COVID infections among vaccinated, boosted persons are thus far mild, the current surge and attendant high numbers of infected and exposed persons presents vast logistical challenges. Working with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, we are revising evidence-based testing, and isolation/quarantine guidelines that support our most vulnerable community members, keep our educational experience satisfying, and help protect our on-campus community as much as possible. We are doing what we can to avoid campus restrictions as we prepare for returning students and in-person instruction.
As we prepare for a fuller return to campus and in-person instruction, there are a few things everyone can and should do right now to minimize their COVID risk this term and support a healthy return to in-person classes and campus activities
- Get your booster shot. Drexel requires a booster shot for all students and employees who are eligible as defined by the CDC. Data repeatedly shows that fully vaccinated people are less likely to get seriously ill or need hospital care. Vaccine protection from infection, however, lessens over time. In addition, current vaccines provide up to only 30-35 percent protection against infection by the Omicron variant. Booster shots increase your immune response against COVID and the Omicron variant, resulting in much better protection. Please get your booster shot and upload your documentation to the Drexel Health Checker. If you are unable to find a booster before you arrive, you can obtain one through Student Health (call 215.220.4700) or at one of our Sunray Pharmacy clinics. Upcoming clinics are January 12, 13, 19 and 21 for students and employees — click here to schedule. Adult family members can also schedule appointments at these special clinics. If you have been granted a religious or medical exemption from COVID vaccination, you are also exempted from the booster. We understand that recent COVID infection impacts booster timing. We are here to work with you.
- Upgrade your mask. Masking remains mandatory in all Drexel buildings. Preventing classroom transmission is critical to our ability to hold in-person classes. The contagiousness of the Omicron and Delta variants coupled with current, high community transmission means a single cloth mask no longer provides enough protection. We recommend KF94, KN95 or other NIOSH-approved, valveless respirator masks. While 2-layer, surgical face masks with wire clips are still somewhat effective, strongly consider doubling up with a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask that fits snugly against your face. All masks should completely cover your nose and mouth and fit well to prevent air escaping out of openings in the mask while still being comfortable. Learn more about evolving mask recommendations in this CNN article. Bandannas, balaclavas, scarves, neck gaiters and masks with ventilation valves are NOT permissible indoors at Drexel.
- If possible, get a rapid test before you come to campus so you can isolate at home. Know when to test. If you had a positive test over winter break/before returning to campus, please upload this information on the Drexel Health Checker App. Depending on the date of your infection, Drexel will advise regarding booster date and any change in testing schedule. Drexel’s testing facilities are open and operating normally. Due to the high number of people exposed and/or symptomatic during the current surge, we ask that you carefully consider the reason for your test before scheduling it. If you are symptomatic and a rapid home test is positive, you do not need to repeat a PCR test at Drexel. People living in Drexel housing, people with vaccine exemptions, and people with COVID symptoms or exposures are given priority at this time. If you’re not among those groups and don’t feel sick, consider using an at-home test or getting a test elsewhere if you are concerned about your COVID risk. We recognize that tests are hard to obtain in the community and we still welcome everyone who feels they need a test in addition to those in mandatory screening programs. Anticipate occasional waiting times at testing sites as we work to test larger numbers of people than usual.
- If you have had COVID infection over winter break, record it in the Drexel Health Checker if you’re well. If you’re sick, record your symptoms or positive test result in the Health Checker and don’t come to campus until you’re well. You can add your test result and even upload a picture of the test under the Test section of the app. If you’ve had COVID or a COVID exposure, wait until the required period of isolation or quarantine is over as currently defined by the CDC. You should also wait to receive your booster shot until your period of isolation or quarantine is over.
- Follow other health precautions including getting a flu shot and washing your hands. Non-COVID respiratory viruses are also highly active in the United States right now, often leading to COVID-like symptoms and risking overwhelming medical facilities. You can get a flu shot as well as a booster shot at the same time.
Campus remains open during this remote period
During the remote learning period at the start of this term, Drexel facilities, including the dining halls, remain open to serve students and employees who are returning to or need to remain on campus.
In addition, please remember that Philadelphia now requires proof of vaccination for indoor dining establishments. Drexel students, faculty and professional staff are not required to show proof of vaccination to access Drexel dining halls, but this requirement does apply to local businesses throughout the city where food is sold, including those around Drexel’s campus. If you choose to go to an indoor dining establishment in Philadelphia, be prepared to show your vaccine card or a legible photo of it along with personal identification.
Buildings and ventilation
Drexel continues to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines to ensure that all spaces on campus are as safe as possible. Facilities has assessed and adjusted ventilation systems in Drexel buildings to ensure all facilities follow ASHRAE 62.1 standards for ventilation and indoor air quality. If you have questions about facilities safety or concerns about your specific workspace/classroom, please speak to your building manager and/or department manager to express your specific concerns.
Visitors and public health
Remember that all visitors to Drexel must now complete the Drexel Visitor Health Checker Pass AND provide proof of full vaccination in the form of a vaccination card that matches personal identification. A clear, legible photo of a vaccine card is also acceptable. This applies to everyone without a Drexel ID, including those attending events. Eating and/or drinking are NOT currently allowed at indoor events because viral transmission remains high.
Hope moving forward
We have been continually gratified with the adaptability and care you have shown despite the many challenges and changes to the start of the winter term. We know that many are asking why we are doing all of this when so many vaccinated and boosted people experience something akin to a head cold when infected with COVID. We fervently wish we could just move forward to a time of campus life with rare, if any, restrictions. However, information from the CDC and local health department tells us it’s just not time yet and the fastest way to arrive at that time is to follow the guidelines we have all come to know well.
Please refer to the Drexel Response to Coronavirus site for the latest public health guidelines; we strive to update our web pages as quickly as possible. With a public health emergency that stretches on so long and keeps throwing us curveballs, it’s understandable to be tired of all these changes. We ask you, and thank you, for your continued patience.
Marla J. Gold, MD, FACP
Chief Wellness Officer
Senior Vice Provost for Community Health
Janet Cruz, MD
Director, Student Health Service