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COVID-19 questions answered: How Emory is addressing the pandemic this semester

Amir St. Clair

Amir St. Clair, Chief Resilience Officer

The fall semester brings a robust calendar of events and activities, expanding minds and interests, and a vibrant campus environment. With the return of full campus density, and in alignment with historical patterns, the start of the semester has also resulted in an increase in COVID-19 positive cases for the Emory University community. Chief Resilience Officer Amir St. Clair explains Emory’s COVID-19 response efforts, describes how the campus community can navigate surges, and provides important reminders for students, faculty and staff to follow. 

Q: How is Emory University addressing the COVID-19 pandemic this semester? 

The Emory University community has taken critical steps over the past few years to support a safe and healthy campus environment, including strong measures on vaccinations, testing and isolation. Now, with widely available testing and highly effective vaccines reducing the risk of severe illness, along with greater access to pharmaceutical tools, Emory has transitioned from a crisis operations model to the next phase of its pandemic response at the start of this semester. 

The university is following a new COVID-19 operating model comprised of two levels: standard operations mode and heightened response state. Emory will continually review, in consultation with public health experts, data indicators to assess risk levels, to guide and direct protocols, and to determine campus operating levels. The Emory Forward dashboard will continue to provide current COVID-19 rates and details on how we assess broader community health indicators.    

As always, the active partnership and personal responsibility of each member of our community will play a central role in navigating this evolving pandemic.  

Q: How is Emory University prepared to manage a surge in positive cases now and in the future? 

Emory University’s leadership and public health teams, as informed by public health guidance and regional policies, have spent much of the past few months applying lessons learned over the course of the pandemic to best prepare for managing surges within this new operating model. This work has included enhanced education on vaccines, boosters and testing resources; modifying our index case surveillance process to better manage high volume during surges; revising the Emory Forward website to make accessing resources more streamlined and user friendly; and extending COVID-19 services needed for students, faculty and staff. 

While a rise in case counts can be alarming, our campus community’s vaccination and booster rates, along with wide access to testing and pharmaceutical interventions, creates conditions where the risk of disease severity remains low.  

Given this, a surge in cases alone may not necessitate a change to Emory’s standard operating status or a reinstatement of campus-wide restrictions. Emory University is prepared to pivot into a heightened response state should conditions warrant; however, we remain in a standard operating status as we begin the semester and look to continue partnering with community members on important COVID-19 efforts.

Q: What can each campus member do to protect themselves and others this semester? 

Every day, and especially when there is a surge in COVID-19 cases, we strongly recommend you follow these healthy behaviors: 

  • Get vaccinated if you have not done so already. 
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including the new bivalent booster. 
  • Review the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) new guidelines for exposure risk, and wear a mask when you are in higher-risk scenarios. 
  • Monitor your health conditions. If you notice COVID-19 symptoms, get tested immediately. 
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, go to the What do I do if? page of Emory Forward and carefully follow isolation steps. 
  • Wash hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, and practice good hygiene. 

Q: What should Emory students, faculty and staff do if they notice symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed?

If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, get tested as soon as possible. If you test positive for COVID-19, please carefully follow the prompts on the What do I do if? page of Emory Forward. 

Please remember that if you test positive, you need to notify the university and follow all instructions listed on Emory Forward per Emory’s Community Compact, which outlines behavioral expectations for all students, faculty and staff.   

Campus members who test positive will be directed to follow a largely self-service process for isolation procedures and support services. Student Health Services continues to provide medical support and care to students experiencing moderate to severe symptoms or at high risk.  

An important change worth noting is that the CDC recently updated its exposure guidelines and no longer recommends a quarantine period for exposure, regardless of your vaccination status. 

Q: With new boosters rolling out, what do I need to know?

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are vital in our fight against COVID-19. If you have not already done so, please visit Emory Forward’s Vaccine page for further information on the COVID-19 vaccine, or visit to find out where you can get vaccinated.    

In addition to already available vaccines, and as part of the continued effort to develop stronger tools against an evolving virus, a new COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster was recently approved and made available. The bivalent vaccine booster is designed to better protect against the omicron subvariants most prevalent in our community and is authorized for use as a single booster dose at least two months after primary or booster vaccination.

To stay best protected, the CDC recommends everyone stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, to include all primary series doses and boosters for their age group — which now includes this new bivalent vaccine booster for all those 12 and older. 

Emory University continues to require all students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated with the primary series and a first booster. With multiple boosters now available depending on your age or risk category, we strongly recommend campus members follow public health guidance on staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines above and beyond university requirements.  

Q: What should community members expect for fall? 

As we transition into our next phase of COVID-19 response, we want the campus community to be empowered with the tools, resources and knowledge each of us has acquired over these past two years. 

We should be prepared for increases in COVID-19 cases at varying intervals throughout the year, and look to respond by practicing important mitigation efforts, to include regular testing, symptom monitoring, following isolation protocols and other healthy behaviors. By remaining vigilant, staying up to date with vaccinations and following important public health guidelines, we remain confident in maintaining our standard operating status and promoting a safe, healthy and vibrant campus experience this year. 

Emory Forward will continue to be the best resource for all COVID-19 information, protocols, and guidelines — and we encourage you to review it regularly for new and updated content.  

It is hard to believe that we have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic for more than two years, but I am grateful for our ability to learn and adapt to new challenges together. We appreciate the community’s flexibility and commitment to partnering in our public health efforts to better protect our community.

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