Updated at 6:44 p.m.
Officials at the University of Vermont say the highly contagious Delta variant is likely behind the growth of Covid-19 cases at a rate exceeding that of last year.
The university has so far recorded 83 cases of Covid in the first month of campus activity among a widely vaccinated student population, according to data released by the school. That is compared to 102 student cases for the entire fall semester of 2020 before vaccines became available, according to university spokesperson Enrique Corredera.
This fall’s Covid numbers remain well below the 697 cases of UVM students recorded in the spring semester of 2021, when most students remained ineligible for the jab.
UVM demanded this semester that students be vaccinated against Covid to attend school, with exemptions allowed for religious and medical reasons. Of 13,826 students, only 214 – or 1.5% of the population – benefited from such exemptions, according to the university.
In addition to this semester’s cases among students – including 59 who live off campus and 24 who live on campus – two staff members have tested positive, according to the university. No case was recorded among the professors.
Corredera said case growth this semester is “relatively small” and should be seen in context.
“In the fall of 2020, there was no highly transmissible variant of the virus, compared to the spring of 2021 when the variants were in circulation and vaccines were not available for most of the semester, compared to the fall 2021 with the highly transmissible Delta variant in circulation and widespread vaccination, ”he said. in an email to VTDigger.
Corredera said that while the Delta variant can lead to new cases, evidence shows that Covid vaccines prevent the vast majority of people from developing severe symptoms if infected. He said a very small percentage of students who have tested positive so far have shown symptoms.
Last academic year, the UVM asked all students to undergo regular Covid testing in an effort to contain the spread of cases. When cases increased in the spring semester, weekly tests were increased to twice a week.
This academic year, tests are no longer mandatory for vaccinated students, although they remain available on campus. Students who are not vaccinated under these exemptions are required to submit to weekly tests, according to the UVM website.
Although faculty and staff are currently not on a vaccination mandate, Corredera said all employees should “receive” the vaccine. (President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees is also likely to apply to the university.) Corredera said more than 90% of employees would be vaccinated based on estimates from the Department of Vermont Health.
Corredera said the university continues to follow the advice of public health experts and that current UVM mitigation measures are appropriate.
“These measures give us the ability to deliver a near-normal, high-quality educational experience, on campus, in person,” said Corredera.
Asked about the current case rates on campus at a press conference Wednesday at UVM’s Davis Center, university president Suresh Garimella said he believed the return to campus was going “remarkably well. good”.
He pointed out that the campus community’s high vaccination rates and the requirement for indoor masks were positive signs that members of the UVM community continued to take the pandemic seriously, unlike other parts of the country. .
“I would say it exceeded expectations,” Garimella said of returning to campus. “And I have very high expectations.”
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