Public Health Update – March 26, 2021

Date: March 26, 2021

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Subject: Public Health Update – March 26, 2021

To the Wesleyan community,

I write again with an update on the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are encouraged with the progress in getting people vaccinated, we remain concerned about the emergence of more contagious variant strains. The B1.1.7 strain may become dominant in the next month or two, and there are significant surges in parts of Europe. We are in a race to get the world vaccinated and as close to herd immunity as possible. As Dr. Fauci says, a virus cannot mutate if it cannot replicate.

Governor Lamont recently announced that by April 1, all Connecticut residents would be eligible to schedule their COVID-19 vaccinations. This effort—combined with increased production of vaccines, more doses distributed to Connecticut, and additional vaccination sites opening—suggests that President Biden’s goal of celebrating July 4 with our families and friends is reachable.

The Wesleyan Pandemic Planning Committee is working with the Community Health Center (CHC) to develop the most efficient plan to get our students vaccinated this semester. We will provide more information on April 1 when individuals aged 16 and older are eligible to schedule appointments for the vaccine.

We have not been allowing students to return home, or leave Middletown, to receive a vaccine elsewhere. Our concern is that every time a student leaves and then returns, there is the risk of spreading the virus on campus. While we do not yet fully understand the more contagious variants of the virus, we can be sure that the more students who leave campus, the more the risk increases. So far, our positivity rates have remained relatively low thanks to students’ compliance with our COVID-19 guidelines, but the sheer number of recent requests to leave the area for vaccination could undo the hard work that has created our safe ‘’bubble.’’ Even with these positive developments, we must continue to stay focused on keeping ourselves and our campus safe. We will continue to follow our COVID-19 testing and contact tracing protocols, including twice-weekly testing for students; wearing face coverings at all times when in public; and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Again, the good news is that a vaccine will be available to everyone this spring. It is a big step forward.

Wishing you all wellness and safety,

Tom McLarney, MD