COVID-19 Updates

All community members expected to test for COVID-19 next week

Publication Date

Dear Union College Community Member:

As we near the halfway point of the spring term, we wanted to update you on our current preparations and responses related to the College’s COVID-19 protocols.

Like many in our community, we are aware of rising case rates nationally and in our region associated with the latest omicron variant, although hospitalizations remain low in most areas, including ours. We’ve also been closely monitoring the conflicting actions enacted at the municipal, state and federal levels, including mask mandates being reinstated in some places while being discontinued in other settings, such as on planes.

Due to the recent increase in cases in the Schenectady area, and based on advice from our public health consultant, all students, faculty and staff will be expected to resume weekly testing next week. Testing will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. in the Fieldhouse. Please note the location change.

Additionally, we encourage community members to resume wearing a mask when indoors in settings such as classrooms, meetings and events, but stress that this is an individual choice. We ask that everyone continue to respect the decisions of one another.

As we continue to monitor the situation and communicate with the College’s public health consultant and our COVID-19 Advisory Group, one data source in particular bears mentioning: The CDC’s community level for Schenectady County.

The CDC’s community level measure – which currently rates Schenectady County as “medium” – takes into account more than case levels. The measure also factors in new hospitalizations and the percentage of local in-patient hospital beds being used by COVID-19 patients.

This “blended” measure provides a more complete picture of the impact of COVID-19 on our community and is especially appropriate to track given our status as an almost fully vaccinated and boosted campus, which provides significant protection against serious illness. At the “low” and “medium” community levels, the CDC does not recommend requiring indoor mask-wearing.

Should the CDC community level, which is updated each Thursday evening, move to “high” in the future we would expect to revert back to mandatory masking in indoor spaces as we did during the winter.

We will continue to track this, and other, metrics and to seek advice from our public health consultant. As a reminder, we encourage everyone who wishes to do so to continue to wear a mask at any time. As this recent piece in the New York Times highlights, even one-way masking (using well-fitted medical masks, such as N95s or KN95s) can significantly reduce exposure to the current omicron variant.

Late-season flu outbreak on campus

We also wanted to make everyone aware that we have seen a larger-than-usual number of confirmed flu cases among students in recent weeks. Anyone who has flu-like symptoms – including fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches and fatigue – should not come to work or go to class, and should limit their exposure to others to the greatest extent possible while symptomatic.

Flu and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms, so it is important to see a health care provider or take a rapid test for COVID-19 if you are symptomatic. For flu, the CDC recommends people stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medication, except to get medical care or other necessities.

Thanks, as always, to everyone for doing their part as we continue to navigate COVID-19 as a community.

Sincerely,

Michele Angrist
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty

Fran’Cee Brown-McClure
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Tye Deines
Chief Human Resources Officer

Scott Jones
Vice President for Administration and Finance