University of Vermont President Suresh Garimella and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger today marked the university’s 100,000th coronavirus test since the start of the fall semester by thanking students for their adherence to testing protocols, and health and safety measures.
“Today, I especially want to thank our students for all of their cooperation and efforts to protect our university and our community from COVID-19,” said Garimella. “Let me be clear—this is as much recognition of the stakes at hand, as it is celebration of what we have achieved to date. We do not lose sight of the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic that has had devastating effects and we cannot lose sight of the fact that there are challenges ahead. However, it’s important we acknowledge the efforts that have enabled us to continue in-person classes despite the pandemic.”
During her recent visit to UVM, Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx, M.D. gave great credit to UVM students for the role they are playing in keeping new coronavirus test positivity rates among the lowest of any campus in the nation. She underscored the importance of mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing. Dr. Birx also emphasized the value of extensive surveillance testing. UVM administers more than 10,000 student tests per week, a testing volume that is five times higher than the average for colleges and universities partnering with the Broad Institute. The positivity rate has remained low, with the past week’s figure being less than 0.01 percent.
Weinberger also credited students. “There has not been enough attention to what a great job UVM students have done throughout the time since they’ve been back,” Weinberger said. “Thank you for the commitment to wearing masks that I see as a neighbor, it’s really been just an outstanding effort and one that is very much appreciated by the people of Burlington.”
“I want to reinforce that now is not the time to relax our efforts,” Garimella said. “It’s critical that we do not let down our guard. With cases spiking throughout the nation, including here in Vermont, and the number of tourists arriving in our state, we must maintain our good practices. This is especially the case as we head toward Halloween, the election, Thanksgiving, and weather that tends to keep us inside. We have come too far, and worked too hard, to jeopardize what we have achieved. Indeed, I know you will serve as ambassadors as you go back home for the holidays and work to keep your family and friends safe.”
Garimella also acknowledged that’s it’s been hard work for students under unprecedented circumstances. “Wearing masks, social distancing, and getting tested weekly are not part of the usual college experience. I know this has been difficult for you, our students. We are social creatures, and college is a time when you forge many lifelong friendships. But I credit you with finding ways to do that while keeping your friends, your community, and many others you may never meet, safe. This is what it means to be a good citizen. And you have demonstrated this at a time when good citizenship is especially important.”
At the event, Garimella introduced Emily Scarbrough, a first-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences, who was identified as the 100,000th test recipient. “Starting my college career during a pandemic has certainly been interesting and a little overwhelming at times,” said Scarbrough. “One thing that I’m so glad to be at UVM for is that everyone here truly wants to be safe and wants (UVM) to remain open, so everyone is doing all that they can to stay socially distant, do activities outdoors when they can, wear their masks and get their weekly tests.”