Notre Dame updates COVID-19 policies ahead of spring semester
Students will return to the University of Notre Dame next week amid a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases. In preparation, the university has modified its COVID-19 policies.
Indoor masking was largely optional for vaccinated students, faculty and staff throughout the fall. But starting Jan. 1, masks will be required in all campus buildings, except for when alone in private offices or in residence halls.
In a Dec. 31 letter to the campus community, university officials said the change was due to the “high transmissibility and rapid spread of the Omicron variant."
The letter says the policy will stay in place until 90 percent of the university population has the full protection of a COVID-19 booster, which is generally recognized as two weeks after the shot.
With all students, faculty and staff required to get boosted by Jan. 21, the mask policy is expected to stay in place until Feb. 4. The letter says officials will consider ending it sooner if the 90-percent goal is reached early.
“Our goal is to keep everyone in the campus and local communities as safe as possible, especially in the early weeks of the semester when cases of Omicron are expected to peak,” the letter reads.
Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff – meaning those who don’t receive their initial vaccine sequence plus a booster shot – will be required to mask indoors for the full semester. They also must report for weekly surveillance testing.
Even after the campus-wide mask requirement is lifted, faculty members are allowed to require masks in their instructional spaces. Visitors to campus are required to wear masks in all campus buildings until further notice.
Students are encouraged to mask when shopping, dining or otherwise venturing outside the campus community – according to state data, St. Joseph County currently has a vaccination rate of just over 54.5 percent and is recording its highest daily case counts in more than a year.
The university also updated its quarantine and isolation policies to match the new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
The new policy states that fully vaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19 can now isolate for five days instead of 10. Provided they are symptom-free, they can return to normal activities while masking for an additional five days.
Fully vaccinated close contacts no longer have to quarantine, but will be required to mask for five days while monitoring symptoms and test on the fifth day.
Unvaccinated close contacts will still be required to quarantine for five days and provide a negative test before returning to campus activities.
“As has been true throughout the pandemic, we are working closely with public health officials and medical experts across the nation, and we remain poised to adapt to changing circumstances as needed,” the letter reads.
Notre Dame’s spring classes will begin Monday, Jan. 10.
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