We are writing to provide an update to you on our response to COVID. The situation in Monroe County has changed, and there is reason for optimism. As our Chief Medical Officer Mike Apostolakos reported last week, the omicron surge appears to have peaked and is abating in our region. Last month, the University announced a February 21 deadline for all faculty and staff to receive a COVID booster. The deadline was set at a time when the rates of COVID infection far exceeded the rates of infection of a year ago, putting dangerous stresses on our healthcare systems and the dedicated healthcare professionals already exhausted by two years on the front lines combatting this disease. The February 21 deadline also corresponded with Governor Hochul’s current deadline for New York healthcare workers.
Given this encouraging omicron trend, although we continue to strongly encourage COVID boosters for everyone who is eligible, we are extending the February 21 booster deadline for all University faculty and staff who are not in roles covered by the New York Department of Health mandate until April 30. This extension will give our faculty and staff who are not providing patient care more time to fulfill the booster requirement, and it will allow us more time to better understand the evolving science around COVID. We will write to you next month to report on any new public health guidance. Current masking guidelines and the student booster requirement will remain in place for now, and our colleagues who are affected by the current state mandate for health care personnel should work with URMC leaders to ensure they follow applicable directives in connection with the deadline for compliance. Faculty and staff who have not yet reported their completed booster status are encouraged to do so through the COVID Vaccination Status Portal (University network or VPN connection required).
The nature of this pandemic means that we are learning about COVID, its behaviors, and its prevention and treatment in real time. Research is being introduced almost daily that provides new epidemiological and public health insights and recommendations for the best ways to combat the disease. This means we must be flexible and evolutionary in our decision making. Every day we are monitoring both the course of the disease and new knowledge about the disease, so our University guidance will likely evolve and change in the coming months. We will communicate any changes in our policies, and we will continue to base those policies on the latest science, while complying with the local, state, and federal rules that govern our licenses and accreditation. And we will continue to make decisions that we believe are in the best interests of our students, faculty, staff, and patients, and the Rochester community more broadly.
This has been a long slog for all of us. We’re all craving more normalcy and certainty and greater personal agency. There are optimistic signs, but we’re not out of the woods yet. So for now, even as we extend the booster deadline for some faculty and staff, we ask for your renewed patience as we continue to navigate this rapidly changing environment. We have our community’s best interests at heart, and we will always act accordingly.
Sarah C. Mangelsdorf
President and G. Robert Witmer, Jr. University Professor
Mark B. Taubman
CEO, University of Rochester Medical Center and Dean, School of Medicine and Dentistry
Sarah E. Peyre
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer