February 11, 2021: Public Health Update

Date: February 11, 2021

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Subject: Public Health Update

To the Wesleyan Community,

Welcome to the new semester! Whether you have returned to campus, are studying virtually from home, or have decided to take a gap semester/year, I wish everyone good health and safety.

Thus far, our return to campus has been a great success. We have seen terrific compliance from our students with pre-arrival testing and quarantine and influenza vaccination. In our first few days of testing, the positivity rate is very low relative to our predictions. Please pat yourselves on the back for a job well done! Wesleyan’s alert level is currently at Yellow, and all students remain in a state-mandated arrival quarantine through the end of the day on February 21. The 14 days of self-quarantine (which is based on the incubation period for the coronavirus), along with our twice weekly testing, constant wearing of face covers, and grab-and-go meals, gives our campus the best chance of becoming as safe as possible.

Speaking of jobs well done, a big shout out to the Wesleyan staff who not only organized the arrival testing center but improvised when the New England winter threw us a curve ball. Our arrival testing team was also able to provide rapid antigen tests for students who could not receive a pre-arrival test. Although we know that this test does not have the sensitivity of the PCR, it was a viable adjunct to our PCR, giving us quick results. I’d also like to give a shout out to my main collaborator for these advisories, Lauren Rubenstein, will be leaving Wesleyan. It is with bittersweet emotions that I wish her the best with her new career endeavors; she will be truly missed. I tell people all the time that Lauren takes my rough drafts (which look like a third grader wrote them; actually my granddaughter Delia, who is a third grader, tells me I write like a first grader. I guess she would know.) and turns them into the polished versions you see. Thank you so much Lauren! These weekly updates will continue with the help of a new ghost writer.

As I referenced in my last update, the trend of declining COVID-19 numbers continues yet there remains much uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic as new strains emerge in our country. We do not yet know the prevalence of these strains, but we do know that they are more contagious and virulent. Some experts believe they may become a major issue in the coming months. At the same time, new vaccines continue to be rolled out around the world. Here in Connecticut, this week individuals above age 65 became eligible to receive the COVID vaccine as we forge through Phase 1b of the rollout.

Wishing all a wonderful start to the semester!

Tom McLarney, MD