By: Josh Knutsen (Loyola Sophomore)
As Loyola’s first true semester back from quarantine comes to a close, the university will take both a look back on and a glance forward to its COVID policies to consider how it will cope with the pandemic going into the new year.
COVID protocol for Loyola will be largely seamless going from the current semester to the next. While school administrators are largely happy with the current rates of transmission, they still aim to maintain a degree of caution.
“We have had a very low positivity rate since the beginning of the semester,” said Joan Holden, the director of Loyola’s Wellness Center. “We don’t have a particular threshold, but we’re very much aware of watching positivity rates and we would take action if we had a significant spike of cases on campus.”
With this recent success at mitigating the spread, students were granted the privilege of signing in off-campus visitors into dorms in early November. Further incremental changes to policies like this can be expected assuming that cases do not shift drastically.
“We routinely examine our testing data, as doing so can help us identify cluster cases, outbreaks, or any other trends sooner rather than later and adjust protocols as necessary,” said official Loyola Spokesperson Anna Shymanski-Zach.
To further aid in these administrative tweaks, Loyola and the Wellness Center adhere closely to the CDC and local health authorities. Specifically, the school is considering a mandatory booster shot on top of the already-required COVID vaccine, depending on official recommendations.
“Loyola students, faculty, and staff should receive a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine if it has been at least six months since receiving a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or at least two months since receiving the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Shymanski-Zach said. “Booster shots for COVID-19 are not required at Loyola at this time, but this could change pending local and national public health guidance.”
With the Omicron variant adding further uncertainty, Loyola seems to be mirroring local efforts to invest further in health resources. Local Alderwoman of the 49th Ward, Maria Hadden, recently obtained six million more dollars towards general public health in the Rogers Park area.
“That’s specifically for 29 new positions to expand the work and the outreach that our public health clinics and clinicians can manage,” Hadden said.
In particular, Holden said that these investments have paid off, citing the Wellness Center’s great success in hiring COVID Care Coordinators, carrying out testing, and getting students and faculty fully vaccinated.
“I think [things] have gone extremely well considering what we’ve been up against,” Holden said. “We have been able to help mitigate risk and bring a semblance of normalcy back to our campus.”