Office of the President
Subject: Spring Semester 2022 Health Protocols - A Message from President Clark
Dear BSU Community,
Before announcing our spring semester public health protocols, I want to thank our entire campus community once again – students, faculty, and staff – for keeping yourselves and our entire BSU family safe during the fall semester. Although we endured a variety of challenges along the way, the university succeeded in keeping the campus community safe through our collective efforts. More than 96 percent of our campus community is fully vaccinated; there was strong overall compliance with both masking and testing requirements; and we administered 7,846 tests with only a 1.38% positivity rate.
As much as we all hoped that we could overcome the COVID-19 virus as we ring out 2021, that is simply not our current reality. The Omicron variant reminds us that this stubborn virus continues to pose new and complex public health challenges. While the science around Omicron is still evolving, it appears that this variant is highly transmissible, even if very early indications are that it produces less severe disease than the Delta variant. Consequently, at this point in time, we will need to continue to keep the public health measures that have kept us safe in place and not let our guard down.
Below, I outline the basic public health policy measures that we are planning for the spring semester. These decisions are based on recommendations made by the Health and Academic Continuity subcommittees of the Together Again Task Force and approved by Cabinet. BSU is also monitoring and incorporating the latest science and the recommendations of national and state public health authorities into our decision-making. Considering rapidly developing public health circumstances, these decisions are subject to change.
Vaccinations [See booster vaccination section for additional instructions.]
Most importantly, BSU is extending its requirement that all students and employees who are attending any in-person classes, living in residence halls, conducting research on-campus, participating in any on-campus activities, or working on campus be fully vaccinated. This mandate will also apply to any new students or employees (joining us for the first time in the spring semester), who will need to attest to being vaccinated. New students can utilize this online student attestation form to attest. New employees can utilize this online employee attestation form to attest. As was the case in the fall semester, the Wellness Center will continue to verify reported vaccinations by students through the state’s official vaccination database.
All current students and employees who attested to being vaccinated for the fall semester 2021 will be considered vaccinated for Spring 2022 and will not need to resubmit electronic paperwork for their vaccination(s).
Fully online students in the spring semester who are not coming to campus for any purpose should indicate that status on the student attestation form and will not be required to be vaccinated. All online students who are coming to campus for any purpose must either be fully vaccinated or granted a vaccine exemption.
Booster Vaccination Shots
The nine Massachusetts state universities have unanimously decided to require that all students and employees must receive a booster shot in the spring semester. There will be a rolling deadline for receiving the booster shot based on the timing of your final vaccination shot. For those who received the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you can receive your booster six months after your second shot; for those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can receive your booster two months after your initial shot.
Recent studies indicate that, while the original vaccines reduce the likelihood of infection from Omicron, there is some decline in their efficacy against this new variant, but that booster doses have been found to provide an increased level of protection. The university has held three booster clinics on campus in the last two weeks, administering more than 300 booster injections, and we plan to conduct additional booster clinics throughout the spring semester.
BSU will follow the same process it conducted in the fall semester, requiring all students and employees to attest that they received their booster. Students can utilize the student attestation form now to attest. Employees can utilize the online employee attestation form to attest to their booster status.
As was the case in the fall semester, BSU will continue to allow for proven medical and religious exemptions from the vaccine requirement. Students and employees who were granted an exemption for the Fall 2021 semester must reapply for an exemption for the Spring 2022 semester following the same procedures used last semester. Students can initiate a request for exemption utilizing the same online student attestation form. Any students who are granted an exemption must submit to mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing.
Renewed or new exemption requests by employees should be submitted to the Equal Opportunity (EO) office as soon as possible for the Spring 2022 semester and for Summer 2022. EO will follow state and federal guidelines in reviewing all exemption requests. Any employees who are granted an exemption must submit to mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing.
As in the fall semester, all students and employees who are granted a vaccine exemption must participate in weekly testing through the Wellness Center. Details about the location and time of testing will be shared prior to the start of the Spring semester. Free testing will once again be available to all members of our campus community.
All residence hall students, whether fully vaccinated or exempted, must provide a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Rapid/Antigen) prior to move-in. Tests may be taken off-campus and a negative test result submitted electronically to BSU no more than 72 hours prior to move-in. More information and a link to use to upload your off-campus test results will be sent to you soon from the Office of Residence Life and Housing. The Wellness Center will also offer several days of testing prior to move-in if students prefer to test on campus. More details about the spring semester testing schedule will be shared prior to the start of classes.
Due to the high COVID-19 transmission rates in Massachusetts, BSU is extending its mandatory public indoor mask requirement thru March 4, 2022. BSU has consistently followed CDC county-level data in extending its indoor mask requirement. Both Plymouth and Bristol Counties are classified by the CDC as areas of high community transmission and positivity rates continue to climb in these geographic areas. The CDC currently recommends that “everyone in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, should wear a mask in public, indoor settings.”
Indoor masking remains an important strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19. It is our responsibility to fully comply with this requirement for our own health and for the health of those around us.
This communication is the first of several that you can anticipate receiving as we draw closer to the start of the spring 2022 semester. Please continue to monitor the COVID-19 website, which contains all BSU COVID-19 related information. The final dashboard update for the fall semester was posted December 17; the dashboard will resume on January 21, 2022.
As many of us break for some much-needed rest and relaxation, please follow these important tips to stay healthy and safe over the holidays:
- Get a booster shot as soon as you are eligible (6 months after your second Pfizer or Moderna vaccination shot or two months after your single J&J shot)
- Stay home if you are sick. In the era of COVID-19, please don’t dismiss symptoms as “just a cold.”
- Continue to wear a mask in indoor, public settings, as recommended by the CDC for areas of high transmission of the virus.
- Encourage (but gently) family and friends to get vaccinated or boosted. Massachusetts has fared better than most states, but still only 74% of our residents are fully vaccinated.
Thank you again for your patience, hard work and perseverance. My very best wishes to each of you for a safe, happy, healthy, and restful holiday season. I look forward to seeing you in 2022 when we will be safely together again.
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.