Dear UVM Community,

As you are aware, 46 students tested positive last week. We write now both to put that number in perspective, but also, importantly, to remind everyone of the critical importance of all COVID protocols.

  • The combination of masking and distancing and avoiding social gatherings works. It protects you and it protects our community. It is also required both by State of Vermont regulations and by the UVM Green and Gold Promise. Most of the positives we have seen appear to be the result of lapses in following these basic protocols.
  • UVM has one of the most aggressive surveillance testing programs of any higher education institution.  We require every student to test every seven days. This allows us to direct students into isolation even before the onset of symptoms, and to quickly get close contacts into quarantine.
  • To further assist in identifying positive cases swiftly, we also have begun using rapid antigen tests to supplement our weekly PCR tests in select situations. We use the rapid test, for example, when a student has symptoms. At the same time, we move the student to isolation pending the results of a confirmatory PCR test. We also have found the supplemental rapid test useful for monitoring students in quarantine.
  • These testing strategies have proven effective. Over the past seven days, nearly 60% of our new positive on-campus cases came from students already in quarantine and over 30% of our new positive off-campus cases came from students already in quarantine. By testing everyone every week, we have been able to significantly limit the spread of the virus.
  • To put our testing strategy in context, UVM’s on-campus COVID-19 tests represent nearly 23% of all the tests administered in Vermont since the start of the pandemic.  This is an exceptional commitment on the part of the University to protecting the health of the members of our UVM community, the local Burlington community and other Vermonters. Significantly, the free weekly testing we offer includes not only our students but is available to all UVM employees.
  • Since we began testing in August 2020, UVM has administered over 220,000 tests at the UVM Testing Center. Since February 1, we have administered nearly 30,000 tests at the UVM Testing Center.
  • We have received questions about UVM’s isolation and quarantine housing.  We can assure you that we have not reached capacity, and that we have taken action between semesters to improve the experience for our students.  Our University Dining partners provide meals delivered twice daily and work with the students on any special dietary restrictions. We are especially proud that several UVM students who tested positive in the fall agreed to serve as student ambassadors in our isolation and quarantine housing working with Student Health Services – THANK YOU!
  • We are excited about the progress that has been made related to the vaccine and the distribution in Vermont.  We are especially proud of the role UVM researchers have played to advance vaccine trials.  We strongly encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to you.  Getting the population vaccinated is a critical step in bringing the pandemic to an end.  Additional information about vaccines is available at the Vermont Department of Health vaccine webpage and from the CDC’s vaccination webpage.

We successfully met the challenge presented by the pandemic last fall and we are confident that we can do it again this semester.  A repeat of that success requires all of us to remain diligent.  Please avoid social gatherings and travel, as these are the two most common reasons for our positive cases. Now is not the time to let our defenses down but rather to recommit even more strongly to our shared goal of another successful semester.  We greatly appreciate everyone’s dedication and commitment.

Let’s Rally Together!

PUBLISHED

02-17-2021
Patricia Prelock, Provost and Senior Vice President & Gary Derr, Vice President for Operations and Public Safety