Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff:
Over the past month, countless members of our campus community have been hard at work planning and preparing for our students to return to campus and to begin the spring semester. Since the beginning of the pandemic, each semester has presented our community with new and different challenges—and spring 2022 will be no different. At the same time, two aspects of our planning and preparation are unchanged. We remain committed to prioritizing the health and well-being of our community, and to a decision-making process that is informed by science and the best guidance of public health experts.
There is still much we don’t know about the omicron variant. What we do know is that the omicron variant is highly infectious. At the same time, there is strong evidence to suggest that—for those fully vaccinated (including a booster shot)—the omicron variant poses a much-reduced risk to individual health as compared to prior variants of the virus. It is for this reason that we are requiring all members of our campus community to be fully vaccinated and boosted, and why we’re confident in our ability to sustain an in-person, residential learning experience throughout the spring semester.
The purpose of today’s message is to provide our community with important information necessary to inform your planning for the spring semester. This is a necessarily lengthy message. I encourage you to read it carefully, and plan accordingly. Specifically, in today’s message I will address the following:
- Pre-Arrival Testing for Students
- Check-In and Arrival Testing for Students
- Enhanced Surveillance Testing
- On Demand Testing
- Masking Framework
- Isolation and Quarantine Guidance and Space
- Booster Shot Requirement
- Flu Vaccine Requirement
- Continued Flexibility for University Community
Pre-Arrival Testing for Students
As we announced prior to the winter break, all students, regardless of housing location, are required to provide proof of a negative COVID test, administered prior to arriving on campus. Qualifying pre-arrival tests include:
- A PCR-type test, administered within 72 hours prior to arrival
- An antigen-type or at-home test, administered immediately prior to travel to the Syracuse area
Any student who tests positive on pre-arrival testing should submit their test result to the Patient Portal and will be directed not to travel to campus until symptoms of illness (if any) have resolved and they have completed the required isolation period. Students who have tested positive within 90 days of the date of their arrival are exempt from the pre-arrival test requirement but must submit documentation of their prior positive status to the Barnes Center in advance of arriving on campus. If a student arrives at check-in as noncompliant with the pre-arrival testing requirement, they will be prohibited from proceeding with the move-in process.
Check-In and Arrival Testing for Students
All students, including those who live in off-campus housing, are required to participate in arrival testing upon their return to Syracuse. For students residing in campus housing, you will be tested at the Ensley Athletic Center during the check-in process. For students residing off campus, you will be directed to test at the Stadium Testing Center no later than Jan. 25. Consistent with prior policy, any student who is noncompliant with the arrival testing requirement will lose access to on-campus technology resources.
Students will receive an email message later this week providing additional details related to the pre-arrival and arrival testing requirements and the check-in and move-in process, as well as a detailed move-in schedule. Please check your email regularly and review all information carefully.
Enhanced Surveillance Testing
Given the current surge of new COVID cases locally and across the U.S., Syracuse University will continue and expand its on-campus COVID surveillance testing program for fully vaccinated individuals beginning Jan. 24. Like the fall semester, each week a group of students, faculty and staff will be selected for testing and directed to visit the Stadium Testing Center. However, given the current surge of new COVID cases stemming from the omicron variant, the number of vaccinated individuals required to test each week will be expanded to start the spring semester.
As a reminder, students, faculty and staff who access campus under a medical or religious vaccine exemption are required to participate in routine COVID surveillance testing once per week. In addition, this requirement is now also extended to any individual who is not yet fully vaccinated and boosted. Community compliance with the requirements of the surveillance testing program will be closely monitored.
On Demand Testing
High-quality, PCR-type testing on demand will continue to be available to students, faculty, staff and families of employees through the University’s Testing Center. Further, the University’s on-campus PCR testing can now be considered confirmatory for the purposes of generating an isolation order and notifying Human Resources of a positive COVID test. Testing through Friday, Jan. 14, will be available at Kimmel Dining Hall. Testing will resume at the Stadium Testing Center beginning on Sunday, Jan. 16. Please visit the Get Tested page on the Stay Safe website for testing location, hours and availability.
In accordance with the New York State public health order issued on Dec. 10, 2021, and consistent with the University’s masking framework, all members of our campus community must continue to wear a mask when indoors, and outdoors when in the presence of others. This will remain in place until, at a minimum, the statewide masking order is rescinded.
Given the highly infectious nature of the omicron variant, the University is strongly encouraging double-masking or use of a well-fitted KN95-type mask while indoors on campus. Additional masking guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is available on the CDC’s website.
Isolation and Quarantine Guidance and Space
The CDC recently issued updated guidance as it relates to quarantine and isolation time periods. Late last week, that guidance was adopted [PDF] by the Onondaga County Health Department (OCHD) following New York State’s endorsement of the revised CDC policy. As such, Syracuse University has revised its isolation and quarantine guidelines (for those who test positive and those exposed) for members of the campus community for the spring semester. The most significant change is the reduction in isolation from 10 to five days for individuals who test positive for COVID. Symptomatic individuals may need to isolate longer, depending on the progression of their symptoms. The University’s full isolation and quarantine guidance for faculty, staff and students can be found on the Stay Safe website. As a reminder, the Onondaga County Health Department is discontinuing its contact tracing; however, the University will continue to contact trace transmission that occurs involving students and classroom operations.
One potential implication of the highly infectious nature of the omicron variant is to create significantly more demand for University-provided isolation housing. Therefore, as a contingency, over winter break the University converted all rooms in both our on-campus isolation residence halls—Sky Hall 1 and Sky Hall 2—from single to double occupancy. COVID-positive students who require University-provided isolation housing will be assigned single rooms based on availability. However, if the student need for University-provided isolation housing exceeds our capacity to provide single-occupancy rooms, some students isolating in the Sky Hall buildings may be assigned to a double-occupancy room during their isolation period. Additional supportive services and resources for students in quarantine and isolation are available on the Stay Safe website.
Booster Shot Requirement
As shared on multiple occasions, all students, faculty and staff who routinely access any Syracuse University campus location or facility are required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot (or have an approved medical or religious exemption on file) prior to the start of the spring semester, or as soon as they become eligible.
For individuals who are not yet eligible to receive a booster by Jan. 24, you will be required to receive a booster shot during the academic semester, within one week of becoming eligible. Students who do not comply with this requirement will not be able to access campus during the spring semester. All students, faculty and staff are required to demonstrate proof of their booster compliance. To upload your information, including your booster and vaccination documentation, follow these steps:
- Students: Upload documentation of your COVID booster to the Patient Portal at your earliest convenience. This must be completed before your return to campus. Review step-by-step instructions for uploading proof of your COVID booster.
- Faculty/Staff: Document your COVID vaccine series (including your booster) or apply for a medical or religious exemption in MySlice by following these detailed instructions. Faculty and staff must certify their vaccination status by Monday, Jan. 24, to avoid disciplinary action.
Flu Vaccine Requirement
All members of the campus community are expected to be vaccinated against the flu to provide additional protection against the spread of illness this winter. Under the Stay Safe Pledge, all students accessing campus are required to have the flu vaccine prior to the start of the Spring 2022 semester. If you haven’t already done so, please get a flu vaccine at your earliest convenience. Here’s how:
The only exceptions to this requirement are for those with religious or medical exemptions. Students can document their flu vaccine status (or exemption) in the Patient Portal and faculty and staff can do so by logging in to MySlice, clicking on the Employee Resources tile and then the Flu Vaccine Status tile. For individuals who receive the vaccine on campus, no further documentation is required.
Continued Flexibility for University Community
In December, supervisors were encouraged to extend flexibility to work remotely to their teams, as appropriate to their duties and departments. Originally, this was slated to remain in place until Tuesday, Jan. 18. However, given that the University has pushed back the start date of the spring semester to Monday, Jan. 24, if practical supervisors are now empowered to allow their teams to work remotely until that start date, if their positions support this kind of arrangement. Staff who have questions or concerns should reach out to their supervisors directly; supervisors with questions should contact their unit’s senior human resources business partner.
As a reminder: Staff who must be on campus to perform their duties, including but not limited to student-facing roles, food services, facilities management, public safety, parking, etc., as determined by their departments, should continue reporting to campus per their regular schedule. If you are uncertain if your position requires you to be on campus, please contact your supervisor directly to discuss.
In the days to come, you will continue to receive frequent communications from me and others addressing the most current public health guidance, policy updates and other actions proposed to safeguard health, wellness and our campus community experience. Please continue to visit Syracuse.edu/staysafe for all the latest information about the University’s public health strategy.
We look forward to welcoming our community back to campus.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation