Martha Hrdy

UVM, take a stronger approach against omicron

January 26, 2022

UVM’s response to the omicron variant of COVID-19 is a failure.

The University decided not to change their plans for spring 2022, according to Patricia Prelock, provost and senior vice president, and Gary Derr, vice president for operations and public safety, in a Jan. 11 email..

“UVM continues to offer in-person instruction and student services, following our 2021-22 academic schedule,” Prelock and Derr stated.

This news comes after Chittenden county saw 3,858 COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

UVM’s choice to operate with little proactive measures against COVID-19, while positive cases continue to increase, leaves me with no confidence in UVM’s ability to be STRONG.

UVM offered and required free at-home pre-arrival tests to all students before the spring 2021 semester, according to a Dec. 12, 2021 email from Derr. 

Though the University did not require a pre-arrival test this year. Instead, they strongly suggested students get tested before their Day 0 and Day 5, 6, 7 tests, according to a Jan. 11 email to the UVM community from Erica Caloeiro, interim vice provost for student affairs.

The difference in action between this year and last is worrisome.

It feels as if the administration is throwing faculty, staff and students out to sea in shark-infested waters and hoping vaccinations and booster shots will act as floatation devices.

UVM does not require weekly testing for vaccinated students, according to UVM Forward.

With no testing requirement for the vaccinated, only those who choose to test know their COVID-19 status. Individuals can walk around campus infected because UVM lacks a policy to prevent it.

“I anticipate we will see a larger number of people testing positive on campus in the weeks to come,” stated Caloiero in a Jan. 11 email to the UVM community.

Given the minimal regulations in spite of omicron, this sentiment showcases the indifference UVM’s administration has for this variant of COVID-19 and the safety of its students, faculty and staff.

Caloiero sent the email the week before in-person classes began. During the week of Jan. 10, the week before the spring semester, 252 members of the UVM community tested positive, according to the UVM weekly testing results.

Choosing inaction resulted in students infected with COVID-19 coming back to campus.

“Maintaining a safe and secure campus at which to learn, work, live and play is of the highest priority for the University of Vermont,” UVM’s Safety and Security Philosophy stated.

Despite their so-called philosophy, it is clear from the response to this pandemic that UVM’s priority of safety and security does not pertain to omicron.

I feel uncomfortable walking around campus, not knowing if those around me have COVID-19 or not. I wear my mask outdoors, and in classrooms I sit semi-distanced from strangers. 

When UVM made it clear they were not going to change operations regardless of the omicron variant, I decided to change how I act on campus to lower my chance of infection.

The UVM community deserves to feel safe. 

Required testing, six-foot distancing in classrooms, smaller class sizes, mixed-modality courses and a mask mandate indoors and outdoors are ways UVM can prevent COVID-19 infections.

The University needs a robust approach against omicron and it needs to adapt now.

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