Weekly COVID testing to continue through November, UVM President says

UVM+students+stand+in+a+long+line+outside+of+the+Davis+center+Covid+testing+site%2C+Sept.+10.

Mary McLellan/Vermont Cynic

UVM students stand in a long line outside of the Davis center Covid testing site, Sept. 10.

UVM will continue mandatory COVID-19 testing for students through the beginning of November, the University announced just days before student testing was set to expire.

Before UVM President Suresh Garimella announced the extension in a Sept. 16 email, weekly testing was slated to end Friday, Sept. 18 at which point UVM’s website said it would consult with health professionals to assess appropriate testing protocol going forward.

“We are now moving to a time where science is telling us we need to be even more diligent in our efforts to maintain the positive outcomes we have enjoyed to this point,” Garimella stated in the email. 

UVM has had a relatively low rate of COVID-19 cases, reporting a 0.03 percent positivity rate among students, faculty and staff according to last Thursday’s weekly test report. This comes in well below the overall national positivity rate of 5.3 percent.

Garimella’s announcement comes one day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commended Vermont on its reopening policies in a press briefing with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott Tuesday.

However, Garimella emphasized that the UVM community must not become complacent.

“We know that our expectations for your behavior can lead to fatigue and a tendency to let your guard down,” Garimella stated. “The weather is changing and as the colder air moves in the tendency is to ‘hunker down’ inside, where social distancing is harder to maintain.” 

The UVM president also cautioned the community of the coming flu season, mentioning it four times in his brief email.  

“In addition, our medical experts strongly urge our students, faculty and staff to get this year’s flu vaccine,” Garimella stated. “Flu vaccines will be available to students at the testing center.”

Although students pledged to get vaccinated for the flu upon signing the Green and Gold Promise, UVM Spokesperson Enrique Corredera said the Promise does not require students to get flu shots, but “strongly encourages it.”

According to the email, the University’s expert panel will review its testing protocol again by Nov. 1 to again assess the appropriate frequency of testing going forward.