|TO:||Gonzaga Students and Families|
|FROM:||Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., President|
|SUBJ:||Message to All Students and Families Regarding Booster and Testing Requirement|
|DATE:||December 30, 2021|
I hope that you have been able to enjoy this holiday season, and that it has afforded some opportunities for rest as well as sharing of important time with loved ones.
I have two purposes in writing today. First is to inform you of an important change in our vaccine requirement. Effective immediately, all vaccinated students, faculty and staff will be required to receive a booster shot within 14 days of becoming eligible. We strongly recommend that you receive your booster shot before the end of holiday break if you are eligible to do so. The second is to detail a pre-arrival COVID testing requirement.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked closely with the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and followed guidance from SRHD, the State of Washington, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and follow protocols that are intended to keep our community safe. As I am sure you are aware, the emergence of the fast-moving “Omicron variant” of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has created major disruptions and raised new concerns about transmission and infection. Almost as soon as the Fall semester concluded, colleagues from the Covid Action Response Team (CART), the Provost and Academic Deans, and other administrators began to evaluate available information and discuss various possible scenarios with a view towards creating a plan for Spring re-entry.
Revised Vaccine Requirement: COVID-19 Boosters
Our principal concern, as has been the case throughout, is to limit the transmission of COVID-19, keep the numbers of infected individuals to a minimum, and do our very best to support students and community members who must isolate or quarantine.
We are now witnessing a significant increase in cases throughout the country and even in highly vaccinated areas, such as western Washington and the Bay Area. The SRHD has advised that cases are expected to sharply rise within Spokane County in the coming weeks. In light of CDC guidance and this rapidly evolving situation, Gonzaga University is updating its vaccine policy to require all eligible students, staff, and faculty to receive COVID-19 booster shots. Effective immediately, all vaccinated students, faculty and staff will be required to receive a booster shot within 14 days of becoming eligible (Note: If your second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine occurred less than 6 months ago or you received a J&J vaccine less than 2 months ago, you will be required to submit documentation of your booster within 14 days following your eligibility). We strongly recommend that you receive your booster shot before the end of holiday break if you are eligible to do so. Remember that full booster effectiveness requires ten days to two weeks. Individuals should consult the State Department of Health (DOH) website to determine their timeline for eligibility.
All eligible, vaccinated campus-based students (if you are required to visit campus at any time during the spring semester) should update their Medicat status with booster information, including both a photo of their CDC Card and the date of the booster, as soon as possible but no later than Friday, January 21st, 2022. Campus booster clinics are planned for late January, February, and March as an option for those who are not currently eligible for, or cannot obtain, a booster shot. To learn more about the COVID-19 booster and eligibility, click here. Those who have received an approved exemption from COVID-19 vaccination for medical or religious purposes should have already submitted a verified exemption form and may be required to complete additional COVID-19 testing.
Testing Required 48 Hours Before Returning to Campus
We ask that all students, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, boosted or not boosted, test for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their planned return to campus (for graduate and law students, this would be within 48 hours of your first visit to campus for the spring semester). For those students traveling from international locations, the test required to board the plane fulfills this requirement if your flight ends in Spokane. If the results are positive, we ask that you remain at home (or your current location) until the end of your isolation period, as defined by current CDC guidance. For those living on campus, presentation of your negative test result may be required upon return. Please schedule a testing appointment or obtain an at-home test as soon as possible in order to meet this requirement.
While these two requirements are new, there are many things this spring that will remain the same:
- There are currently no changes to the academic calendars for Undergraduate and In-Person Graduate and Law students (note: Online Graduate Student academic calendars remain the same as well). The first day of classes will occur as scheduled.
- As of this communication, we are planning for in-person instruction for those courses that have been designed for in-person modes. However, some faculty may elect to begin the semester utilizing a remote-delivery (i.e., “online”) approach. Please note that course delivery modes could change at any time. (Note: If the number of COVID-19 cases rise to unsafe levels, we may need to shift to online instruction for a period of time, especially to provide reasonable accommodations for students who are isolating or in quarantine).
- Dining services and residence halls will reopen, as scheduled, on Sunday, January 9th.
- Masks will continue to be required in all indoor and group settings (including classrooms, library, study rooms, etc.) unless an individual is studying/working alone.
- Quarantine and isolation space will continue to be evaluated as needed.
- Faculty will work with students who are unable to attend class due to quarantine or isolation to help facilitate successful completion of necessary coursework.
- For additional information and resources, visit the ZagOn website. (Please note that the COVID-19 hotline is not re-activated until Monday, January 3rd.)
This holiday break has provided me the opportunity to once again reflect on the diligent commitment you all showed this past fall to mitigate COVID-19 cases in our campus community. We must remain flexible in the face of changing circumstances; but through it all, I am very proud of this community and the efforts every individual has made to keep themselves, and each other, safe. With the commitment to health and welfare foremost, we will, once again, come together in community to battle this pandemic and finish the academic year well.