Actions Follow Data Showing No Evidence of Classroom Transmission
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle
University Health Center Director Dr. Spyridon S. Marinopoulos sent the following email to the campus community today:
Since the beginning of the fall semester, we have been closely following our COVID-19 cases on campus, and I am happy to report that our 4 Maryland measures are working. Our COVID-19 rate on campus is low and declining. The campus community is doing an outstanding job of mask wearing, and combined with high vaccination rates and increased ventilation, we are keeping the coronavirus under control—particularly in classroom settings. I want to thank you and share a few updates for notification protocols moving forward.
As we have been doing since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been carefully looking for any identifiable patterns of virus spread both qualitatively through our early contact identification (ECI) process, as well as quantitatively through case data. Over the last three weeks, we have observed a sustained decline in cases, consistent with a similar decline in Prince George's County. Moreover, neither our qualitative nor our quantitative data have found any evidence of viral transmission in classroom settings.
There are approximately 6,218 UMD class sections operating in person this semester. Single positive cases have been reported in fewer than 4% of those sections since Sept. 21. In addition, only 0.12% (or barely over 1 in 1,000) of all sections have reported more than one case within a one-week period. This data indicates that viral spread is extremely unlikely to be occurring in classroom settings.
Changing COVID-19 notifications
We will continue to send Level I letters to everyone whom we know has been a close contact of a positive individual based on our ECI process, and we will continue to send notifications in cases when clusters or outbreaks are identified.
However, we will no longer send general notification (Level II) letters when individuals test positive for COVID-19 in classrooms and other settings. We began sending Level II letters last fall to those who were in a shared space but were not in close contact with a positive individual. At that time, a COVID-19 vaccine was not available. However, we now have a 98% on-campus vaccination rate, masks are required indoors, and there is no evidence of viral spread in the classroom.
QR code scanning
We will also be suspending QR code scanning in classrooms at this time. We rolled out the placement of QR codes as a potential aid to our ECI process. Unfortunately, we never reached the necessary critical mass of student participation to be able to operationalize this method. Absent evidence of viral spread and given the decline in COVID-19 cases on campus, the program is not necessary at this time.
Importance of KN95 masks
We believe that along with our high vaccination rate, indoor masking is the most effective measure we have at our disposal in mitigating COVID-19 spread, and we want to thank our faculty, staff and students for their vigilance in ensuring that indoor masking is observed in all classrooms and indoor campus events. We would also like to remind you of the importance of wearing KN95 masks. If you have an exemption and are unvaccinated, you are expected to wear a KN95 mask at all times. For everyone else, please wear KN95 masks indoors in classrooms and residence halls, and in other settings of increased crowd density. A KN95 mask provides its wearer several additional hours of protection against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses compared to a cloth mask.
Lastly, as we enter respiratory virus season, we expect that COVID-19 will continue to be present in our community along with other respiratory viruses. All of us should assume that we could be exposed to these viruses at any time and continue to take all appropriate precautions, including getting the COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot.
We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring cases and inform you should conditions change. Thank you for your partnership as we continue to navigate this pandemic.
Spyridon S. Marinopoulos, MD, MBA, FACP
Director, University Health Center
Chief Medical Officer, University of Maryland
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