SLU requires staff to be fully vaccinated

CANTON — All St. Lawrence University employees were notified by senior staff members on Thursday that they would be required to be fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 under an updated policy.

They have until Jan. 28, or 30 days after they are eligible for a booster, to upload proof of vaccination. They also can apply for a medical or religious exemption from the policy.

“Booster shots continue to be one of the most effective ways that we can protect our community against COVID-19,” the university said in its message this week. “There continues to be strong evidence that people who are vaccinated and have received the booster are either asymptomatic or experience very mild symptoms if they test positive. Meanwhile, those who have not been vaccinated or boosted have a much greater chance of experiencing more serious consequences, including hospitalization and even death.”

Employees had been made aware of the possible change in the university’s vaccination policy. They received a Dec. 21 message from senior staff members to make them aware that a change to the vaccination policy announced in the fall was under consideration. Employees were allowed to submit anonymous feedback through Jan. 7.

“The overall response to the proposed policy was in support by a significant margin,” the message said. “While we did also hear concerns about the proposed policy, those did not outweigh the concerns for the safety of our community.”

The final policy is posted on the university’s website.

SLU had announced a student booster requirement on Dec. 21. It requires all students to be fully vaccinated with a booster. The university also requires unvaccinated students with medical and religious exemptions to undergo weekly testing and possible random surveillance testing throughout the semester.

At Clarkson University in Potsdam, all employees and students were required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as of last June. As of Dec. 22, Clarkson required all students and employees who access any campus location or university facility to receive a booster shot, if eligible, before returning to work or beginning the spring semester, or as soon as they became eligible during the spring semester.

SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton are following SUNY-wide state guidance issued Dec. 31 by Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul for the spring semester. It says that all students who aren’t fully remote must provide documentation of booster shots in order to take classes.

The governor’s guidance included the continuation of a student vaccine mandate as well as a requirement that all students who regularly access SUNY campuses receive the COVID-19 booster for the spring semester.

Additional requirements for students include mandatory pre-testing ahead of their semester return, which will apply to all students who plan to regularly access campus. Students who are regularly on campus who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster are now required to receive one for the spring semester.

All SUNY faculty will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 under Gov. Hochul’s guidance.

Alexandra M. Jacobs-Wilke, SUNY Potsdam’s director of public relations, said the university is continuing to strongly urge boosters for all its faculty and staff, and is keeping them informed of vaccination and booster clinics.

She said proof of vaccination is not currently required for employees, but those who do provide it are exempt from mandatory weekly testing, although they may still choose to test if they wish.

As of this week, 86% of the university’s employees have voluntarily provided documentation of being vaccinated to campus, though that percentage could be higher since there may be some who haven’t provided the documentation or were recently vaccinated.

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