University Health Center Director Dr. Spyridon S. Marinopoulos sent the following email to the campus community tonight:
I hope everyone's semester is off to a healthy start. I'm writing today with a few critical updates and reminders, which are detailed within this email.
Viruses constantly change through mutation, with new variants of a virus expected to occur over time. Multiple variants of the coronavirus have been documented during this pandemic. Two of the COVID variants, which have been reported in Maryland, seem to spread more easily and quickly, and to be more virulent than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources and lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths. The emergence of these new variants necessitates increased vigilance and strict adherence to the 4 Maryland infection prevention measures.
Wearing Your Mask Effectively
We rely heavily on face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and there are some important behaviors we can do to ensure our face coverings are as effective as possible:
No matter where you are or who you are with, always model correct mask-wearing behaviors to keep each other safe and encourage others to do the same: cover your mouth and nose, stay 6 feet apart and keep your hands away from your mask and face. TerrapinSTRONG face coverings are available for free at the Stamp Student Union Information Desk.
COVID-19 Testing Requirements
As a reminder, all students, faculty and staff physically coming to campus are required to get a PCR-based COVID-19 test prior to your first arrival and every two weeks throughout the spring semester. Please review the date of your last COVID-19 test and start planning ahead for when your next test will need to take place. Visit return.umd.edu to view available testing dates and times, schedule an on-campus COVID-19 testing appointment, and confirm your results. As we learn more about the spread of the new variants, additional testing may be required.
Please continue to maintain all 4 Maryland precautions after getting tested and remember that a negative test does not mean that you can relax your guard against the virus.
If You Have Symptoms or Test Positive
If you are experiencing any potential COVID-19 symptoms—fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, acute loss of taste or smell, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, new fatigue, muscle aches, runny nose or congestion—please contact the HEAL Line at 301.405.4325 to be screened and get tested at the University Health Center. Don't automatically assume that your symptoms are due to allergies or the common cold.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 at an off-campus location, please do not visit campus. You must contact the HEAL Line at 301.405.4325 to report your positive test result.
Please also call the HEAL line if you have been a close contact of a positive case. The CDC defines a close contact as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more.
Enhanced Health Precautions
Whenever we see an increase in the number of positive cases in a particular location on campus, as we are currently seeing in LaPlata Hall, anyone who is identified as a close contact with someone who tested positive is notified and placed in quarantine housing; anyone who tests positive will isolate. Members of affected communities will be contacted directly with specific instructions, and must get tested immediately, restrict activities, practice enhanced physical distancing and self-monitor for 10 days. We also add a note to the COVID-19 Dashboard.
Some members of our community who are eligible under state guidelines have begun receiving their COVID-19 vaccine off-campus. As vaccines continue to become available to more of our community, it is important to remember that the vaccine is only one of many steps you can use to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. It is important to still follow all 4 Maryland behaviors even after being vaccinated. Masks, physical distancing, washing your hands and testing every two weeks remain campus expectations for everyone.
We are deeply appreciative that our community understands the importance of following 4 Maryland behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. Thank you for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our UMD community.
Be well and stay safe,
Spyridon Marinopoulos, MD, MBA, FACP
Director, University Health Center
Chief Medical Officer, University of Maryland
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