COVID-19 public health update: Valid Monday, February 21, level blue masking
COVID-19 public health update: Valid Monday, February 21, level blue masking

COVID-19 public health update: Valid Monday, February 21, level blue masking

Dear students, faculty, staff and families:

Thank you for your continued commitment to protecting the health and well-being of our society throughout the COVID pandemic. As you know, the university COVID level was elevated to “Red” based on increasing COVID cases, hospitalizations, and test-positive rates on campus, in central New York, and across New York State. The university’s COVID level has remained at “Red” since 28 August. But today I am writing to inform you that from Monday, February 21st, our campus will transition to the “Blue” level.

What does this action mean to you?

As defined by our COVID framework, level “Blue” indicates an increased level of infection risk on campus. Guidelines for “blue” campus masking mean:

  • To all students, faculties and staff who have been vaccinated and boosted:
    • Masks are highly recommended:
      • Indoors on campus and outdoors in the presence of others.
    • Masks required at any time:
      • During academic instruction (including classrooms, laboratories, libraries, studios, and lecture halls); and
      • During non-academic events and in certain facilities (such as the Barnes Center), as determined by a public health risk assessment. These exceptions will be communicated directly as needed, to include the installation of signage as needed.
  • For people who are exempt from the vaccine (approved religious or medical exemption), or if you have not yet received a booster dose of the COVID vaccine:
    • Masks are required at all times and in all amenities while on campus, and outdoors when others are present.

Why did the university make this decision?

On Thursday, February 10, the New York State Department of Health allowed its existing state-wide indoor masking order to expire, and the Onondaga County Health Department did the same. This action was in response to dramatically declining COVID cases across the state and here in Onondaga County. Locally, the Onondaga County Health Department reports that the weekly average number of new cases in the county has dropped by 85% since mid-January, and hospital admissions have dropped by 58%.

In addition, as a campus community, we are extraordinarily well protected against the potential negative health consequences associated with COVID disease. I am pleased to share that as of today, 100% of the eligible faculty and 99% of the eligible staff are in line with the university’s requirements for COVID vaccine and booster. Less than 2.3% of students do not yet comply with our booster policy, and we are working with this group of students to bring them in line as soon as possible. Further, while new case data continues to fluctuate on a daily basis, the trend has been a consistent decline in new cases relative to January figures. In addition, monitoring test data has returned consistently low frequencies of test positivity on campus. Last week’s test positivity, derived from our random monitoring program, was 1% (down from 2% the previous week and 2.2% the week before).

Recent policy changes related to indoor masking for vaccinated individuals announced by the New York State Department of Health and the Onondaga County Health Department – combined with the extraordinary vaccination and booster compliance among students, faculty and staff and also data suggesting declining levels of campus transmission – has informed about this action.

Should there be masks in the stadium?

At present, Syracuse University will continue to require masks at stadium events, except when patrons are actively eating or drinking. However, we are currently engaging with public health authorities and other major venue operators in the state of New York to assess possible adjustments to our current stadium masking requirements for vaccinated individuals. Based on these conversations and our continued monitoring of local conditions, we will communicate any expected changes to the masking policy.

These changes mean increased autonomy for vaccinated individuals related to indoor masking on campus. At the same time, it is also important to note that many of us will choose to continue masking while on campus. We fully support these individuals and pray that we as a community continue to show respect, grace and empathy for each other, while individuals and families continue to navigate the daily challenges associated with COVID.

Thank you to everyone in our community for your continued cooperation and compliance with the university’s guidelines for public health and for your continued commitment to a safe and healthy campus.

Yours sincerely

J. Michael Haynie
Vice-Chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation

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