The holidays are swiftly approaching, and I think we could all agree that the nation is due for a much-needed break. For those who are in education, it’s a break from the political interferences that are creeping into America’s education systems, the workload, and a multitude of other factors. To put it simply, you deserve it.
However, it’s important for everyone to stay COVID-cautious this year, despite the recent loosening of restrictions this school year. And several colleges are making sure students and faculty are playing it safe this holiday season.
In October, President Joe Biden called on colleges and universities to do their part in keeping their campuses protected by hosting at least one vaccination clinic by Thanksgiving.
Williams College in Massachusetts, for instance, has announced stricter COVID-19 policies for students once they return from Thanksgiving break, according to the student-run paper The Williams Record. Students will be required to wear masks almost everywhere on campus from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6, according to a campus-wide email sent by Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische. Additionally, students must receive a COVID test once before they return to campus and twice after they arrive.
The requirements are similar to those set forth at the beginning of the Fall semester.
“Our goal with these rules is to help get everyone through the last weeks of the semester COVID-free, with the ability to fully enjoy the winter break and the holidays if you celebrate them,” Reische wrote.
Similarly, some Boston-area colleges are requiring boosters for their students in order for them to return for the spring semester. Tufts University and Harvard University, although they’re in the minority, have asked students to get the bivalent booster by the end of the year.
“Students must be compliant with all vaccine requirements in order to register for the spring term,” according to Harvard’s Health Services website. “It is highly recommended that students receive the required vaccinations during the fall term while on campus.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over,” wrote Tufts’ Infections Control Health Director Michael R. Jordan. “Indeed, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, is becoming an endemic infectious disease, and we continue to see new cases on our campuses. Therefore, in accordance with the university’s current COVID-19 vaccine policies, we are requiring all eligible faculty, staff, and students to receive the updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster.”
What’s also top of mind for many education leaders is the possibility of a “tripledemic,” the combination of COVID, influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Cases of each virus are surging after flying under the radar during the pandemic, according to Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center.
What’s most troubling is the timing of these viruses, as they’re ramping up much earlier than usual.
“The Southern Hemisphere has had a pretty bad flu season, and it came on early,” Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg News. “Influenza—as we all have experienced over many years—can be a serious disease, particularly when you have a bad season.”
“This could very well be the year in which we see a ‘twindemic,’” Infectious Disease Professor at Vanderbilt University Dr. William Schaffner told NPR. “That is, we have a surge in COVID and simultaneously an increase in influenza. We could have them both affecting our population at the same time.”