While few changes have been made to day-to-day policies on campus, Valparaiso University has implemented additional COVID-19 requirements for students returning to campus. In addition to requiring all students, faculty, staff and visitors to provide proof of a negative COVID test result, face coverings must be worn at all times indoors until further notice. The university also strongly encourages face coverings outdoors at large gatherings.
Additionally, with the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and ongoing concerns about the Delta variant, the university is requiring all students, ages 18 and older, to get a booster of the COVID-19 vaccine before the February 28, 2022.
“A booster shot is required six months after an initial series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” an email from Student Life reads.
Dean of Students Ryan Blevins anticipates a smooth transition to in-person teaching.
“Our students have done a great job during the break to take care of themselves and their loved ones. We are starting with a mask policy during the semester as we did last year, in January and in Last August as well. We always start the semester with masks because everyone left the bubble, the bubble burst. We want to re-establish this bubble around campus. Have masks, make sure everyone has been tested before returning to campus so as not to unknowingly expose people to variants of COVID-19,” Blevins said. “So at the moment there are no restrictions on group sizes, no restrictions on activities, we’re just asking people to be smart, wear masks and, if they’re not feeling well , to stay at home.”
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to update its COVID guidelines, the university continues to follow protocol and consult with professionals to make decisions for the betterment of the campus community.
“We always take the CDC into consideration,” Blevins said. “The CDC, the Indiana Department of Health, and the Porter County Health Department are the three areas that we consult daily, especially the Porter County Health Department and the State of Indiana. The CDC issues guidelines, and then it leaves them up to individual local municipalities to figure out how they’re going to implement those particular things. So if the CDC issues new guidelines, whether it’s mask use or whatever, we’re going to take that into consideration.
With growing concerns about a spike in positive cases in Indiana State, the university remains optimistic and assures the campus will continue to be a safe and contained community for all students, staff, faculty, and faculty. visitors.
“Porter County has been thrilled with us from day one with all of this. We are by far the least of their worries in the region. If you look at the Indiana State COVID map here for the past two days, you’ll notice that the entire state is pretty much in the red category right now. There are eleven counties that are not red and they are very thin and orange, including Porter County,” Blevins said. “So we’re keeping all of those numbers in mind and if the CDC issues new guidelines, we’ll take all of that into consideration and figure out the best way to implement it, because at the end of the day, we want to make sure that we we’re keeping it safe.
Although the university requires full vaccination for all students, staff and faculty, as well as the application of rigid guidelines to ensure the safety of the campus community, the possibility of remote learning is of growing concern. .
“The percentage of our community that is vaccinated and what we’re seeing right now with the numbers and everything on the dashboard and so on, there’s no indication that we’re going to have to walk away. We still have contingencies in place for a variety of scenarios, including that one as well, but it’s sort of a last resort, last resort, we have to do this because the state and the county require us to do it type- of thing. We have no intention of going remote this semester,” Blevins said.
As of January 20, 2022, according to the Valpo COVID-19 dashboard, the total number of confirmed positive cases for students stands at 16, with no new confirmed positive cases and with a current positivity rate of 0.58%. In contrast, ten positive cases of employees and faculty have been reported to the Office of Human Resources (HR) Services with a current positivity rate of 1.25%.
As frustration grows among students as they seek advice and assistance from the University Health Center due to increasing wait times and slow responses, Blevins is ensuring that everything is done to meet their needs.
“They are exceptionally busy at the moment, so if students try to contact the health center with questions about things, I just ask them to be patient, to do their best. We have thousands of tests and thousands of phone calls, emails and things that we are processing very quickly right now. So patience is what is appreciated and they will respond to it as soon as possible,” Blevins said.
Ultimately, the university remains optimistic and confident of a safe and prosperous return to campus this semester despite the tumultuous setbacks wrought by the global pandemic.
“The university is simply thrilled with the way students, faculty and staff have cooperated with our protocols and requests. I think that’s just another example of something we’ve seen since the very beginning of this pandemic, that our students, our faculty, and our staff want to be here, they want to be here in person, and they’re ready to do a lot of commitment and sacrifice to make it happen and we are, as always, thankful and thankful for that,” Blevins said.
In the final semester, the decrease in specific mandates, such as indoor mask requirements, remains until further notice to allow the campus “bubble” to be as safe as possible. A decision will be made at a later date to update the use of face coverings for those fully vaccinated.
As a reminder from Student Life to the campus community, “Those unvaccinated due to an approved exemption will be required to wear a face covering in all campus buildings, public areas and at outdoor events at all times. “.