All CUNY and SUNY students will need to roll up their sleeves one more time in order to return to campus for class, New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced yesterday.
Under the new mandate, fully vaccinated students will be required to get a COVID-19 booster shot to be on campus for the spring semester, which starts on Jan. 28. Students who are currently ineligible to get a booster shot will still be allowed to return to campus – once they are eligible, however, they must get boosted immediately if they want to remain on campus for classes.
Individuals qualify for a booster shot when at least six months have passed since receiving either a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or at least two months after receiving a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In addition to the booster mandate, Hochul is requiring that all students submit a negative COVID-19 test upon returning to campus. University faculty members will also need to be fully vaccinated before the spring term in order to return to work. Other new requirements laid out by Hochul, including a indoor mask mandate for public school spaces as well as random surveillance testing, have already been implemented by CUNY.
The new school requirements are part of the governor’s “Winter Surge Plan 2.0,” a five-part agenda aimed at protecting the state of New York and its residents amid the recent surge of positive COVID-19 cases.
“This is how we’re going to ensure that these campuses stay open,” Hochul said in her Friday morning COVID-19 briefing in Albany.
“When a community college shuts down, or a SUNY school or private school shuts down, that is devastating for the local economy. We can avoid this, because last time we didn’t have vaccinations, we didn’t have boosters, we didn’t have the rapid testing available.”
In New York City alone, the daily average of those testing positive for COVID-19 this past week surpassed 28,000 people for a 30% citywide positivity rate. Concerns over the winter resurgence have largely stemmed from the new Omicron variant, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is now the most common strain of COVID-19 in the US and also accounts for more than 90% of positive cases in New York.
In light of the recent uptake in infections, CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez announced free PCR testing would be available to CUNY students and employees at any CUNY-affiliated testing site. Rodríguez said that he hoped the expanded testing services would help alleviate the shortage and long lines for COVID-19 testing. Applied DNA, CUNY’s designated testing provider, is also currently utilizing a new type of PCR test in order to detect the Omicron variant, and test results should be available within 24 to 48 hours.
The news comes after Rodríguez also announced that students would need to be fully vaccinated in order to attend in-person and hybrid classes for the winter 2022 and spring 2022 semesters. In order to fulfill this requirement, students must upload proof of vaccination to CUNYfirst at least 10 days before the start of the term, if they have not done so already.
Several colleges and universities have already announced a booster shot mandate for eligible students for the upcoming spring term, including Wesleyan University, Syracuse University and New York University.