Published August 31, 2022
The beginning of the fall semester already looks and feels different than it has the past couple years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Masks are not required in most campus settings. No testing was needed for students to return to UB. Proof of vaccination is no longer required to attend campus events.
While the start of the 2022-23 academic year is about as close to normal as campus life has been in nearly three years, health experts remind members of the UB community to remain vigilant and not let down their guard.
“Even though we want to be done with COVID, unfortunately COVID is not yet finished with us,” says Thomas Russo, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chief of infectious diseases in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
COVID also is not the only infectious disease that UB wants students to be aware of as the new school year begins.
Here’s what you need to know as you start the semester:
Boosters strongly encouraged. Like last year, students are required to have had their primary COVID vaccination series to live on campus and attend classes in person. Unlike last year, SUNY is not requiring students to have had a booster.
But for optimal protection against COVID, Russo stresses the importance of getting the recommended booster when eligible. A new booster due out in September is designed to target the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants dominant in the U.S. right now.
Masks (mostly) optional. UB lifted its mask mandate in March, so students, employees and visitors to campus are no longer required to wear a mask, either indoors or outdoors. Individuals are still being asked to wear masks while aboard UB buses and shuttles, and in clinical health care settings on campus.
Anyone who wishes to still wear a mask is being encouraged to do so, Russo says, especially if they are not up to date on their vaccinations or are immunocompromised.
Testing exempt students. Only students who received a religious or medical exemption from vaccination are required to test weekly and report their results to the university. Test kits were already made available for them to test at home.
Feel sick? Stay home. “If you’re sick, take it seriously,” Russo says. “If any of our students, staff and faculty do not feel well they should stay home, get tested and sort out what’s going on.”
Students who test positive for COVID should isolate and report their result via UB’s confidential reporting form. Residential students who test positive also must notify staff at Residential Life. Students who miss class due to illness are responsible for contacting their instructors and making up missed work. Those who have been exposed to the virus should immediately take these precautions.
New Student Health Services center open. The new health center opened over the summer at 4350 Maple Road, near Sweet Home Road, to handle the primary care needs of UB students, replacing the former health center located in Michael Hall on the South Campus. Students seeking medical attention at the health center should first schedule an appointment. Shuttle service from both the North and South campuses is available.
Monitoring monkeypox. The risk of monkeypox is low, but due to the rise in cases worldwide over the summer, UB’s health and safety committee has generated educational resources and encourages students to be informed on how monkeypox is transmitted and on appropriate preventative measures. That includes getting vaccinated if you are eligible. The committee has prepared a response plan should the university see cases.
Monkeypox is primarily transmitted through close, intimate, skin-to-skin contact that most commonly occurs with sexual activity. Symptoms include skin lesions that are often, but not always, in conjunction with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, swollen glands and muscle aches. As of Aug. 25, there were 11 reported cases of monkeypox in Erie County, according to the New York State Department of Health.
Bad flu season ahead? While the attention is still on COVID, the U.S. could be in store for a bad flu season. Flu cases have remained at low levels throughout the pandemic, but based on its spread in other parts of the world, this flu season could be severe. Russo recommends getting a flu shot before the end of October.
“The COVID pandemic has educated all of us on how to keep safe,” Russo says. “Let’s put that knowledge to work so that we can have a safe, fun and productive fall semester.”