This September saw an increase in local COVID-19 cases, according to Tufts medical personnel. Students are highly encouraged to visit the on-campus vaccination clinics that will be offered this fall, in addition to following the university’s COVID-19 guidelines.
“Cases of COVID-19 are increasing across the US and Massachusetts and our local communities are no exception,” Dr. Michael Jordan, university infection control health director, wrote in an email to the Daily. According to Jordan, while Tufts is no longer reporting the number of COVID-19 cases across its campuses, they are monitoring cases that are self-reported by students, faculty and staff.
The United States experienced a slight increase in COVID-19 cases this past summer, which health experts say could signal a potential fall and winter wave. Massachusetts was no exception: in August, the rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the state was 9%, the highest it had been in six months. However, experts emphasize that this uptick remains far below previous resurgences of COVID-19, with numbers unlikely to reach the highs of past fall and winter seasons.
“The predominant strain E.G.5 … is fairly contagious. It doesn’t seem to be very potent though and since most people are either vaccinated and/or have had COVID, the cases seem to be mostly mild with cold-like symptoms,” Amy Lischko, professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, wrote in an email to the Daily.
While there are concerns about the spread of new variants of COVID-19, Lischko added that, based on her knowledge, “the new strains do not seem to be as dangerous … [they are] likely only a problem for people who are immunocompromised.”
An email sent to the school community on Sept. 19 announced that Tufts will offer flu and COVID-19 vaccination clinics at each one of its Massachusetts campuses, which students can make appointments for online. These clinics will be available from September to October, with additional COVID-19 clinics in November.
“COVID-19 is now an endemic disease, and there are effective preventive strategies as well as treatments available for individuals at increased risk for complications. We encourage all Tufts community members to stay up to date with vaccination,” Marie Caggiano, medical director of Health Service, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Tufts’ general policies regarding COVID-19 have largely remained the same since the end of the last school year. Those who test positive with COVID-19 should follow public health guidance to isolate for a minimum of five days, counting the day they tested positive as day zero. Infected students are expected to isolate themselves in their dorm rooms, with the university recommending that they wear masks around their roommates. For community members who are exposed to COVID-19, Tufts asks that they follow the CDC guideline of wearing a mask for at least 10 full days after their exposure.
The university has also offered guidance to professors, Caggiano explained, encouraging them to remain flexible and be transparent with their students about their illness policies.
“At the beginning of the semester, faculty were reminded that students may miss class due to illness, including COVID-19, and that public health guidance continues to be that individuals isolate for a minimum of five days if they become infected with COVID-19,” Caggiano wrote.
“We’re at a stage in the virus where most everyone is either vaccinated, has immunity from a case or cases of Covid, or both. Understandably, the guidance has gotten a little less rigid. For example, I’m not required to have virtual options for students to Zoom into class or recordings of class made available to students who are sick,” Lischko added. “In that sense it feels like we are back to normal — albeit a new-normal.”
Lischko, Jordan and Caggiano all stressed that reducing the uptick of cases on campus is largely dependent on students’ efforts to help contain the virus.
“Since [COVID-19] is mostly a cold if you are vaccinated – you should do what has always been recommended to avoid colds and flu – that is get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your nose and mouth,” Lischko wrote. “I would also add that students should be respectful of others who are wearing a mask as they may be immunocompromised or have relatives at home who are. From my perspective, students seem to be handling this stage relatively well.”