The Campus Health Committee advised the Wayne State community about COVID-19 data and protocols during its meeting Thursday.
College of Nursing Dean Laurie Lauzon Clabo updated the campus community on statewide COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates from Sept. 28 to Oct. 5.
“Michigan as a state is still considered to be at a high risk level,” Clabo said. “Our weekly number of cases for the most recent week is 273.1 per 100,000 population, which is well above the threshold of 100 per 100,000 population.”
While Michigan’s positivity rate for the week was 10.6%, Detroit’s positivity rate was 4% for the last 12 days, Clabo said. WSU’s numbers are even lower.
“On our campus, the positivity rate is 2.8%, which is well below any of our trigger metrics. And, for the first time this week, we saw a slight decrease in the raw number of cases since the semester has started,” Clabo said.
WSU’s campus wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been effective, Clabo said.
“Of those faculty who are scheduled to teach an in-person class this semester, 98.2% are fully compliant with our vaccine mandate, meaning they’re either fully vaccinated or have an approved health or religious waiver,” Clabo said. “For students who are taking in-person classes on campus, the rate is 95.2% and for staff, 93.7%”.
According to The New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration approved a Pfizer booster shot for vulnerable individuals. Marcus Zervos, assistant dean of Global Affairs at the WSU School of Medicine, said those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines should wait to get a booster shot.
“It’s very highly likely that the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) is going to recommend a second dose of the J&J vaccine, and for Moderna, the studies… have been submitted recently to the FDA, and they're likely going to be recommending the booster shot in the very near future also,” Zervos said.
WSU requires individuals on campus to get the flu vaccine by Oct. 20. The mandate was necessary to protect public health, Benkert said.
“The primary reason is that the CDC believes that we’re likely to have a very heavy flu season this year, and the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread at the same time as the flu virus," she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine simultaneously.
Zervos said COVID-19 vaccine efficacy can decrease by as much as 20% six months after initial vaccination, but there is still protection against serious health consequences.
“The vaccines, however, remain effective at preventing hospitalization and serious infection and death, but they have been shown to be less effective in preventing infection overall at about six months or later, and that’s the rationale for the booster shot,” Zervos said.
How often these booster shots may be required depends on COVID-19 positivity rates, Zervos said.
“It is highly likely that we are going to need to get boosters on some sort of a regular basis, but what that depends on is how much COVID we’re seeing in the community,” he said.
Zervos said COVID-19 vaccines for children ages five to 11 years old should be approved by 2022.
“I suspect that… certainly by the end of the year we’ll have vaccines — probably (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccines — approved in children,” Zervos said. “So far the studies that have been done in children have not identified any major safety issues.”
Ramona Benkert, associate dean for Academic and Clinical Affairs at the WSU College of Nursing, addressed student concerns about unsanitized common-use items in classrooms.
“You certainly could clean off your desk with a hand sanitizer, wipes, or some hand sanitizer surface just for your own protection, but just know that those kinds of surfaces are not really significant vectors, it’s really the droplets that are in the air, which is why we’re having the mask mandate,” Benkert said.
The CDC recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces daily, according to its website.
WSU has COVID-19 isolation and quarantine procedures in place for campus residents, according to the Office of Housing & Residential Life.
Unvaccinated individuals who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days should be quarantined if exposed to the virus again, Benkert said.
“We don’t have the official literature yet to know what your antibody protection level is even if you’ve had the disease,” she said.
Those who are vaccinated do not need to be quarantined if exposed to COVID-19, Clabo said.
“If they’re symptomatic, that changes the story, and we begin a process of evaluation that’s for isolation or quarantine,” Benkert said.
Faculty and students will be informed if a person in their class tests positive for COVID-19, Benkert said.
Vaccinated individuals with symptoms should get tested immediately if possible, Benkert said.
Those who are asymptomatic can get tested three to five days after their exposure, according to CDC recommendations.
“Of course you should wear a mask indoors, in public, for at least 14 days following any exposure or until you have a test that says it's negative,” Benkert said.
Clabo said WSU’s Campus Daily Screener will remain in place due to its importance as a contact tracing tool.
The Campus Health Committee will meet Oct. 15 to determine the future of WSU's indoor mask mandate.
“But given the data we’ve seen thus far this week, I would be very surprised if we were to relax the mask mandate as early as mid-October,” Clabo said.
Kate Vaughn is the breaking news correspondent for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo by Kate Vaughn.