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November 1, 2022: November COVID-19 Update

Dear members of the Whitman community,

I want to start today’s COVID update by congratulating our community for doing such a great job keeping COVID cases low. I have been so pleased to see the COVID case counts on campus drop in recent weeks. In fact, we’ve seen only one new case reported in each of the last two weeks. I want to thank each of you for your diligence when it comes to staying up-to-date on vaccinations, staying healthy, and following our other COVID-19 protocols.

It is also important that we do not let our guard down as we head into the colder months of the year. Our consulting epidemiologist expects to see a spike in COVID-19 cases in late November as the weather cools, and people spend more time indoors, traveling and celebrating holidays. Rising case counts in Europe are also pointing to an expected rise in US cases in the coming weeks. 

I know some of you have already received the most-recent bivalent booster created to specifically target the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. You’ll recall from previous emails that the bivalent booster is required for all eligible students, faculty and staff by December 31, 2022. One thing we have heard from many of you who have already received the booster is that providers are not as consistent about providing or updating physical vaccine cards as they once were. In order to make the vaccine verification process as convenient as possible, we will ask each community member to submit a COVID-19 Bivalent Booster Attestation Form in lieu of other documentation. When you fill out the Google form, you will be asked to verify the date you received the vaccine and provide the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine you received (Pfizer, Moderna, other). By submitting this information along with your name, you are confirming that you are up-to-date on your vaccinations as defined by the CDC. If you have an exemption, the form allows you to indicate that as well. You can also use the form to request a medical, religious or emergency use exemption. If you would like to apply for an exemption based on emergency use authorization, the expectation is that you will make arrangements to receive the vaccine once it is fully authorized.

We are also pleased to share that Whitman is partnering with the Washington State Department of Health to host a bivalent booster clinic on campus on Wednesday, Nov. 16 in Cordiner Hall. We will have more details about the timing in the coming days.

The new COVID-19 booster is also available locally, however, the availability at any given location may vary so it’s a good idea to call before you arrive for your booster, even if you have an appointment.  

As we look ahead this month to the Thanksgiving Break, and the travel and gathering with family and friends that is common this time of year, we want to do our best to make sure all community members return to campus healthy.  For that reason, we are asking that all Whitman community members self-test for COVID-19 before returning to campus after the break. 

I also want to stress the importance of monitoring your health regularly. If you think you may be experiencing COVID symptoms, taking a COVID test is an important way to help protect our community from the spread of the virus. COVID tests are available at the Welty Health Center front entryway during normal business hours. It is no longer necessary to go to the back door to pick up a test.

In addition to COVID considerations, medical professionals are also expecting a harsher-than-average season of influenza this year, so don’t forget to get your annual flu shots. The Welty Student Health Center still has flu shots available and are accepting walk-ins Monday through Friday from 1:30 to 4:30 until the doses are gone. Let’s finish the semester strong and healthy!

Thank you,

Peter Harvey
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force

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