by Olivia Bousquet
The Center for Disease Control released new information March 8 regarding fully vaccinated people loosening up on certain restrictions. Fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing, as well as low risk, unvaccinated people from a single household. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Fully vaccinated people can also refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure.
With New York State restrictions constantly changing and more people getting the vaccine, what does the new CDC information mean for fully vaccinated people in the SUNY Plattsburgh community?
“Essentially what happens is the Center for Disease Control can make a recommendation, and then it gets evaluated by the New York State Department of Health,” Student Health and Counseling Center Director Dr. Kathleen Camelo said. “We can always be more stringent than New York State guidelines, but we can’t be less stringent. We’re watching and waiting to see what New York State recommends.”
SUNY Plattsburgh can expect to continue to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines of social distancing and wearing masks for the remainder of the semester. While certain previous COVID-19 restrictions ease, such as drinks in the library and sports competing, SUNY Plattsburgh’s fully vaccinated people should not expect to see any changes to their restrictions.
“From a biological perspective, these new regulations make perfect sense because the immune system of anyone who has been fully vaccinated has been stimulated to a point where it can fully fight the virus and prevent the onset of disease symptoms,” SUNY Plattsburgh immunology professor Dr. Nana Ankrah said. “From a social perspective, because we have a mixed population of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, these new guidelines might be challenging to monitor and enforce. It would appear very strange and concerning to walk past a room and see a group of people with no masks on, since there’s no immediate way of telling if everyone in the group has been fully vaccinated. This has the potential to lead to some unpleasant interactions between people in public.”
According to Ankrah, without an established threshold for herd immunity from the vaccine, it will be hard to determine when everything can go back to pre-pandemic conditions. For the time being, college life remains under strict guidelines.
“We’re still seeing cases on campus and until those numbers go down, we are pretty much staying on top of things and making sure that social distancing is in effect, just based on our positivity,” Camelo said.
While SUNY Plattsburgh’s current positive case percentage lingers around 1%, it isn’t until 5% positive cases over a 14-day period that the campus would go on a two-week pause.
Despite being fully vaccinated, those individuals are still required to attend weekly pool testing.
According to Camelo, within the past week, fully remote local students are now required to get pool tested as well after the Student Health Center noticed an increase in fully remote people testing positive.
“We feel pretty confident,” Camelo said. “But, we’re taking that extra step just in case we start to learn about a variant that might not be protected by the vaccine. So, we’re being extra cautious.”
On March 17, all public-facing employees are eligible to receive the vaccine. Camelo expressed her excitement for more people at the college being able to get vaccinated and she hopes for it to be open to everyone soon.
While campus life may not change for the rest of the academic year, the new information from the CDC can bring hope that the vaccine is effective. Fully vaccinated people should continue to stay on the side of caution and continue to wear masks in public and social distance.
“[The vaccine’s] impact on society has given us an indication that things are getting better and that the vaccine is effective,” Ankrah said. “It’s actually going to yield results; one of the results is going to be that you can actually meet with people that you care about.”