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April 8 COVID-19 Community Update: Progression to “yellow” status

On April 5, Emory took a step forward toward its goal of a full return in the fall: We moved from “orange” operating status to “yellow.” We made the change following careful consulting with infectious disease and public health experts as well as assessing multiple data inputs about campus operations.

Please review the Emory Forward website for more information regarding gatherings and events, dining, recreation/fitness and university travel. Should there be a need to return to a more restrictive operating condition, we will do so to keep the community safe. But the hope is that through continued vigilance — use of face coverings, physical distancing and handwashing, and getting vaccinated — we will continue to advance. 

To date, more than 13,000 university faculty, staff and students have received at least one dose of the vaccine from Emory Healthcare — with many more vaccinated elsewhere. That is extraordinarily encouraging, but we can do more. The university is committed to vaccinating every faculty, staff and student who wants a vaccine. We would like to have every Emory student in the Atlanta area vaccinated by the end of the semester — and we can do it! 

If you are using Emory Healthcare, consult Emory Forward to make your appointment, arrange transportation if you don’t have a vehicle and get site directions. Multiple clinic sites, expanded hours and dedicated appointment times for university members are available. Though Emory Healthcare is admirably servicing many of us, don’t wait for an appointment if you can get the vaccine more quickly elsewhere. 

You are now able to receive your second dose through Emory Healthcare even if you received your first dose from a different system or location. Please remember, keep and secure the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card that you are issued. If your vaccine came from a source outside Emory and you wish to share that information, log into the self-service option with your network ID and password. Click on “Workplace Health” and then select “Vaccination Consents/Questionnaires.”

In Georgia, everyone 16 years of age and older is eligible to get the vaccine. Vaccine supply is stable, and just over 13 percent of Georgians have been vaccinated. According to Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean in the School of Medicine and Grady Health System, there is still significant community transmission, especially as a result of the variants. With certain restrictions lifted in the state, “we must continue wearing our masks, socially distance and get tested if you haven’t been vaccinated. This is not over,” says Del Rio.

The April 1 Vaccine Community Update followed a format that has been useful, which is to answer your thoughtful questions. Below, I highlight some of the questions and responses. The medical questions were fielded by Del Rio and Jodie Guest, professor and vice chair of the department of epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health. 

Q: Will Emory require vaccination of faculty, staff and students?

A: Emory is currently assessing and evaluating this policy question through a formal review process that includes multidisciplinary teams from across the university. At this time, we strongly encourage members of our community to take the vaccine to protect themselves, their loved ones and our community.

Q: If I had the virus and developed immunity, should I get the vaccine?

A: Yes, we still recommend and encourage you to get the vaccine. Public health experts continue to evaluate data on how long one is protected after recovering from COVID-19, so the best guidance continues to be getting vaccinated to build protection. More information on this topic can be found here.

Q: Do vaccinated students need to comply with testing requirements?

A: Yes. Testing continues to be a valuable tool in detecting community prevalence, interrupting transmission and providing care to those infected. Emory will continue to review testing protocols as further public health guidance emerges; however, we still require students at this time to comply with the university’s testing procedures.

Q: How long will vaccines be effective? Will we need boosters?

A: We don’t know yet. Emory was one of two sites in the world that did Phase I testing for the Moderna vaccine almost a year ago, and those participants still show protected immunity. So the data is encouraging, but more information is still needed for us to fully understand and define these answers.   

The community update on April 1 will be the last for the semester, unless conditions warrant the need for an additional update. We will continue to align our practices and protocols with the state’s directives. 

There are now many options open to us to obtain vaccinations. But regardless of your vaccination status, please remember we must all continue to follow safety guidelines on and off ccampus. 

Our efforts have been successful because they reflect a campus-wide partnership. I am thankful for the role that each of you plays in creating a safe environment at Emory.

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