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Univ. comments on how to limit the spread of infectious diseases on campus

In the weeks leading up to students’ arrival to Brandeis’ campus, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Andrea Dine and Associate Provost for Research Administration Morgen Bergman sent emails to students to share updates on the university’s response to COVID-19 and monkeypox. The emails provided recommendations on how to maintain the health of the Brandeis community. 

Bergman sent an email to students on Aug. 10 regarding the university’s response to COVID-19. Bergman mentioned that the university is adjusting its COVID-19 communication methods. According to the email, “the University is issuing a [COVID-19] Status Level, represented by a series of colors. We will begin the school year in Yellow, which requires masking in classrooms (with certain exceptions), among other things.”

A yellow COVID-19 status zone indicates slightly high transmission levels of COVID-19. When in the yellow status, masking will be optional for community members, unless they are in gatherings of 20 or more people, in classes without explicit instructions from the instructor, at indoor performances or sporting events and on Brandeis-sponsored transportation, according to the university’s COVID-19 page. Capacity limits are unlimited in the yellow status. Travel will remain unrestricted and visitors are permitted on campus if they follow the provided protocol by the university, according to the page

If the campus status falls to orange campus status, masking will become mandatory on campus in all settings, according to the webpage. Gathering sizes will also be limited to 50 percent occupancy, and the Daily Health Assessment will be reinstated. According to the webpage, in the orange status, the campus will remain open with classes in person and dining halls open but running on limited capacity. Travel will also be restricted in the orange campus status, including non-essential travel discouraged, testing suggested upon return from travel and self-managed travel quarantine upon return, according to the page

The most extreme COVID-19 status level is red: if infection rates rise significantly on campus the university will issue a restricted campus protocol. No visitors will be allowed on campus during the red status level and travel must receive approval from the university deans, according to the page. The university will begin monitoring certain groups for cluster-testing if the university enters a red status, according to the page

Dine encouraged community members in the email to “take a moment to make yourself familiar with the various color status levels and protocols, and check the website often.”

Before returning to campus, students “must ensure that they are in compliance with the university’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy” and have been instructed to “test themselves with a rapid or PCR test at home prior to departing for campus at the start of the term, according to Bergman. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 should not come to campus.” 

Bergman wrote that “students residing on campus will be required to test via rapid test 3 days after arrival. All undergraduate and graduate students will be required to wear a mask while indoors with others (except while actively eating or drinking) for three days following their date of arrival. They may then follow campus masking policies after taking their third-day post-arrival test and receiving a negative result.” According to the email sent by Bergman, every student should come with at least two at-home rapid tests, which come in one box. 

The email also reiterated that “Brandeis University is no longer conducting an asymptomatic surveillance testing program given the wide availability of rapid tests; the Campus Passport has also been retired.”

The university disbanded its testing program for asymptomatic community members on May 20, during the Spring 2022 semester, according to a previous Brandeis Hoot article. In the university’s new policy, community members only need to be tested if they are exhibiting symptoms. Along with the asymptomatic testing program, the university also got rid of its COVID-19 dashboard, which was updated with the statistics of positive cases on campus from the testing program. They have also disbanded the Campus Passport program which community members had to present to staff when entering certain buildings, according to the previous article.

However, the email suggests that “all community members accessing campus test themselves at least once a week — via rapid or PCR test — and recommend that they do so especially when area case rates are high, when returning from travel, or after known or potential exposure (such as attending a large, indoor event).”

“All those returning to campus either from being away for the summer (even locally) or any return from travel should test themselves with a rapid or PCR test at home prior to departing for campus at the start of the term. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 should not come to campus,” reads the email. 

Students are required to complete a COVID-19 training module on Latte before returning to campus. The module also includes an agreement community members must sign, the agreement states that students will adhere to the COVID-19 policies on campus in order to maintain the health of the community, according to the training. Students are tested on their knowledge at the end of the training with a short quiz. 

Dine sent an additional email to community members on Aug. 16 regarding the university’s response to Monkeypox as the disease has begun to spread throughout the U.S. 

Dine said that “Brandeis is closely monitoring our local, regional, and national public health situation regarding the global outbreak of monkeypox. Health center clinicians are training our staff and developing plans to identify, test, treat, isolate, manage contacts, and monitor cases should they occur in our campus community.”

The email also asks that the Brandeis community avoids stigmatizing individuals or communities with Monkeypox infections. “While the media has largely focused on sexual transmission routes of this infection, it is important to understand there are other routes of transmission,” Dine added. In truth, “direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs, or body fluids and touching items (linens and clothing) previously touched by infectious rashes or body fluids,” can all cause infection.

Finally, Dine asks that Brandesians “educate ourselves to mitigate the spread of monkeypox, and care for and empathize with those who have contracted it.”

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