Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
It gives me great pleasure to be able to address you all as a new member of the community in my role as the inaugural Vice President of Health and Wellness and Chief Health Officer for Barnard College. The energy and excitement on campus is wonderful to experience, particularly given the challenges of the past 18 months.
As you all are aware, the pandemic is not over, and with the surge in the delta variant, we must be extra diligent in our approach to health and wellness. As such, I want to remind you of some of the key aspects of our multilayered and data-driven pandemic response and to share additional adjustments that we are putting into place.
- We have a highly vaccinated community. More than 97% of our students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly 94% of employees working on campus are fully vaccinated, with a few dozen individuals awaiting their second shot. Evidence has shown that COVID-19 vaccination protects against severe infection, symptoms, and hospitalization.
- We are testing regularly at Barnard College. Regular testing for all members of the community allows us to pick up asymptomatic infections that would otherwise be missed. We also now accept tests done outside of Barnard so that individuals can test at their convenience or if they have symptoms and are off campus.
- We continue to mask up. Masks must be worn in all indoor community spaces, including and especially in classrooms. We have not seen any spread of COVID-19 in classrooms because of our highly vaccinated and consistently masked population. Please be careful in other settings. Masking in residential settings is required, while masking outdoors on campus and in the city, and especially if you are in a very crowded area, is encouraged.
- We have experienced and responsive teams at Barnard. Our Pandemic Response team (which works closely with infectious disease specialists at Columbia University Irving Medical Center) is supporting students, faculty, and staff and our Primary Care Health Services (PCHS) is providing medical care for students who are positive for COVID-19. The deans and faculty also understand the importance of students continuing to engage in their academic work and continue to employ student-centered approaches to ensure that students can keep up with coursework if they are sick or in isolation.
- We have a community that cares about each other. Students, faculty, and staff have been open and supportive about staying at home with any symptoms that could be related to COVID-19. COVID-19 symptoms can be very general (fever, headache, fatigue, sore throat, nausea) or very specific (loss of smell or taste) and paying close attention to symptoms can make a big difference. Please continue to report your symptoms in CoVerified. Someone will then reach out to you directly, or, if you are not feeling well, reach out directly to be evaluated and tested by your provider (for students, this is Primary Care Health Services). This is not just for students — any of us not feeling well should not come to campus.
- We have up-to-date data. Our COVID-19 dashboard is updated weekly with campus community and regional data. We are also testing wastewater in several residence halls, which, in conjunction with weekly testing, provides us with additional information.
Please know that even with vaccinations, we will still see COVID-19 breakthrough infections in our community. Although vaccinated people are usually only mildly ill, if symptomatic at all, our goal is to minimize the prevalence on our campus. We continue to monitor case positivity closely and to make adjustments as necessary.
Our data shows that while COVID-19 cases in our student body are low, we have seen some slow and steady increases since most students returned. While these small increases are not alarming, it gives us the opportunity to make some changes in the yellow zone that could potentially stop further spread. These are the most recent adjustments:
- As of Friday, Sept. 17, for an initial period of two weeks, we informed students that they are only permitted to access the residence hall to which they are assigned, and nonresidential students are not permitted in the residence halls. This aligns with Columbia’s recent residential change. We are not seeing spread in classrooms, but instead it’s occurring around smaller social events. Students are reminded that limits to the number of students in any given room or suite remain the same: no more than 1 guest at a time, and the total number in your room or suite shall not exceed double the assigned occupancy. With this pause, we hope to be able to ensure that our positive COVID-19 cases plateau or decrease. We will reassess this change in the next two weeks to determine if these measures need to continue.
- Starting Saturday, Sept. 25, also for an initial period of two weeks, indoor campus dining will be to-go only; no eating will be permitted inside Hewitt Dining Hall, Diana Center Cafe, or Liz’s Place. Although students have been taking extra care to follow dining hall protocols, with the increase in cases both at Barnard and Columbia, we have decided on this pause. The hope is that by making this intervention now, we can get back to indoor dining in a few weeks when the weather grows colder.
We recognize that everyone is eager to resume a more open campus life. Know that your actions matter and that we appreciate everyone’s responsiveness to testing, masking, and symptom checking. Thank you for doing your part to help ensure our campus can thrive.
Wishing you health and wellness,
Marina Catallozzi, MD, MSCE
Vice President of Health and Wellness and Chief Health Officer