Campus News

Boosters, COVID testing mark start of spring semester


Published January 31, 2022

“The first several weeks coming back we need to be really careful. This is not the moment to drop our guard or become lackadaisical. ”
Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

These first few weeks of the spring semester at UB are important during this latest phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant have receded in recent weeks, the virus is still prevalent throughout the region, says Thomas Russo, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a member of UB’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee.

“The first several weeks coming back we need to be really careful,” Russo says. “This is not the moment to drop our guard or become lackadaisical.

“And as we know, the best way to protect yourself is getting that booster shot.”

But Russo is also optimistic about the semester ahead.

He anticipates that by late February or early March there will be a lower burden of disease across the region and, as long as no new troublesome variants emerge, campus life will start to look a little more normal throughout the semester.

“I’m hoping,” Russo says. “I think it’s going to be the closest to normal we’ve seen since this pandemic began.”

Layers of COVID protocols were implemented to help keep the campus safe amid omicron, as in-person classes resume this week. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Student boosters required. Following a fall semester that required students be vaccinated for COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul made a booster shot a prerequisite for all SUNY students returning during the spring semester.

Proof of a booster was to be submitted by Jan. 31, or within one week from when students first become eligible for a booster.

UB now defines “fully vaccinated” as having received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and a booster, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a booster.

  • Return-to-campus testing. All students were required to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their arrival on campus by either setting up an appointment with a local provider or taking an at-home test.

Both negative and positive results were to be reported, with those testing positive told to remain off campus and isolate before returning.

  • Isolating and quarantining. If forced to miss class due to COVID-19 illness, isolation or quarantine, students are responsible for contacting their instructors to make up course work.

UB has designated space in residence halls where residential students will be required to isolate or quarantine.

Students living off campus are advised to isolate or quarantine at home. UB employees who test positive or are in close contact with someone who has tested positive should do the same.

  • Vaccinations encouraged for employees. UB continues to strongly encourage employees to complete the vaccination series and get a booster when eligible.

Employees are required to provide vaccination information to be exempt from weekly surveillance testing. In anticipation of an eventual need to provide proof of a booster, as well, Human Resources has started to collect that information via an improved upload process.

  • Masks required. Masks are required indoors on UB’s campuses and outdoors at campus events with more than 100 people, regardless of vaccination status.

All SUNY schools, including UB, will continue to enforce masking on campus throughout the spring semester, separate from the general statewide mask mandate currently under judicial review.

  • Proper masking. When choosing a mask, make sure it completely covers your nose and mouth, and fits snugly against your face to eliminate gaps where respiratory droplets can leak in.

UB strongly recommends wearing a tight-fitting, high-filtration mask on campus, such as a N95, KN95 or KF94 mask. If you choose a cloth mask, it’s recommended you wear a surgical mask underneath.

  • Campus events. Those ages 5 and older are now required to have proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to attend public events in Alumni Arena and at the Center for the Arts and Slee Hall.