Taking Stock: Vaccinations, and New Guidelines, Easing of Restrictions, & NYU’s Response
Date: March 18, 2021
To: The NYU Community
From: Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, MD, Exec. Lead, COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team
I write to you today — just over a year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic — with both a number of updates that lead me to feel cautious optimism and a plea to each of you to continue to make decisions in the best interest of health and safety at such a crucial time in determining the trajectory of this pandemic.
The Easing of Restrictions and NYU’s Approach
New York State has proposed easing restrictions on dining and public gatherings. Yet, we must look at these decisions in context. While case counts in New York City and nationally are significantly lower than they were at our peak in January, progress has plateaued at what is still considered to be high infection rates. Public health authorities — the World Health Organization, CDC, U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Fauci, to name a few — continue to express concern about states’ decisions to lift restrictions. Additionally, a newly published CDC study suggests that geographic regions with in-person dining experienced high rates of COVID-19 case and death growth rates; this study further substantiates the caution and concern with easing restrictions too soon.
Steady as We Go
While NYU has begun the process of cautiously easing restricted activities, such as recently opening common areas in the residence halls and permitting our athletes to practice outdoors, NYU is going to proceed more cautiously than the rest of the State for five reasons:
- The case positivity in New York, while headed in the right direction, is still concerningly high
- The path NYU has been following since the beginning of the academic year has worked in mitigating widespread outbreaks of COVID-19, and we believe the prudent choice for the time being is to continue along as we have been doing with periodic, modest steps and evaluating the impact on our community’s health
- The intensity of public health experts' concerns about the lifting of restrictions
- The increasing prevalence of more highly transmissible COVID-19 variants
- The ongoing obstacles to getting vaccinated
So the relaunching of campus activities will come more slowly, even as similar or counterpart activities have reopened in the surrounding neighborhoods.
And here’s a challenging ask of you: as much as possible, please forego participation in the newly accessible venues and in-person activities such as going to dining and entertainment venues for the time being. I must emphasize again, as I have in many previous emails: spending time without masks with friends and family continues to be a significant source of COVID-19 transmission within our NYU community. The time when vaccinations are more readily and widely available is not far off, and I am optimistic that wide-spread vaccination will change our view on the pace of easing restrictions.
New Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) recently issued new guidelines concerning activities for those who are fully vaccinated (meaning that the individual has had the proper number of vaccine doses and completed the recommended waiting period), which the CDC regards as first steps toward returning to everyday activities. Below are common questions and short answers on how this guidance impacts compliance with NYU requirements:
If I am fully vaccinated, do I still need to be tested?
For the time being, yes. While the vaccines are very effective, they are not 100% effective. So keep up your testing schedule.
If I am fully vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask on-campus and in public?
For the time being, yes, you must continue to follow all the campus safety and health requirements.
If I am fully vaccinated, what should I do if I’m exposed to someone with COVID-19?
You must still self-report your exposure to the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team as soon as possible through this form.
If I am fully vaccinated, what should I do if I develop symptoms of COVID-19?
While the vaccines are very effective, it is still possible to become infected with COVID-19. If you develop symptoms, you should stay home and away from others. You must also self-report your symptoms to the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team as soon as possible through this form.
As you likely know from my previous communications to you, I strongly encourage all eligible people to be vaccinated, which is vital to being able to resume robust in-person activities on-campus and in our communities. The good news is that new NYS-directed vaccination eligibility standards go into effect this week that extend eligibility to many members of our NYU community. Additionally, the University now provides employees with four hours of paid leave per appointment to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
NYU has sent a separate communication to those who are newly eligible based on their roles within the University, such as those who provide essential on-campus services.
The less good news is that demand continues to exceed availability by a considerable margin, and that NYU Langone Health, which had initially stepped in to vaccinate several thousand of our community members, continues to have very limited supplies. Despite having made the necessary preparations to become a vaccination site, the University has yet to receive any vaccine stock, and we do not know when we will.
I share your consternation about how hard it can be to get an appointment, though I am hopeful that the availability of the recently-approved third vaccine in the US and the use of the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine will begin to ease the difficulties of successfully making vaccination appointments in the coming months.
Though I wish the process were easier, I am aware of many people who were able to secure appointments through the City or State portals. There are vaccinations to be had, but it may require a bit of effort and persistence. Many have found Turbovax and NYC Vaccine List to be helpful in figuring out when new appointment slots are available. Others who are over 60 have had success by reaching out to pharmacies.
I know that some who commute from other states have indicated that obtaining an appointment is even harder outside of New York. If you work in New York, you can sign up to be vaccinated here.
You should not forgo an appointment in hopes of being vaccinated with one vaccine versus another. All three vaccines are safe and effective, and I would not hesitate to be vaccinated with any of them. The bottom line is this: when eligible, if you can get a vaccination appointment, take it, regardless of which vaccine it is, or where it is.
Here are a few tips that may be helpful to you:
If I am eligible to be vaccinated, do I need to wait until I can be vaccinated through NYU?
No, don’t wait. If you can avail yourself of a vaccination through a government site, your doctor, or a pharmacy, don’t hesitate. Simply keep documentation of your vaccination.
I am eligible to be vaccinated, and I have secured a vaccination appointment. Are there any other special considerations I need to keep in mind?
Yes. You will not be able to be vaccinated if you are sick or displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Also, many — if not all — sites will refuse to go forward with a vaccination if you have a pending COVID-19 test. So, as you go about setting up vaccination appointments, be mindful of the timing of your next COVID-19 test — be sure to have the negative results back BEFORE you show up for the vaccination.
Once I am fully vaccinated, what should I do with my vaccine card?
It is essential that you safeguard whatever documentation of your vaccination that you receive. You may need these documents to serve as credentials for travel or other purposes.