COVID-19 update for the fall semester

Aug. 4, 2022

This message is sent on behalf of Hof Milam, Executive Vice President; Michele Gillespie, Provost; and Shea Kidd Brown, Vice President for Campus Life. 

Dear members of the Wake Forest community,

As we prepare to begin another exciting academic year and welcome our students back to campus, the University is focused on cultivating the best learning environment possible for all students, faculty and staff. The University has continued to monitor public health conditions locally and nationally, in order to assess the potential impacts of COVID-19 on our residential learning community. While the virus will continue to evolve, we are confident that we have plans and resources to help mitigate the risk to our campus community and to University operations. 

As a society, we are all continuing the gradual transition from pandemic to endemic strategies, and from emergency response to ongoing management and mitigation. Our public health advisors have observed that variants of the virus remain highly transmissible but result in less significant health outcomes, especially in highly vaccinated populations. We are grateful to live, work and learn in a community that has shown a high degree of respect for each other under these challenging circumstances, particularly in view of the fact that tolerance for risk may be highly variable.

The following guidance is intended to help us start the Fall 2022 semester with similar expectations.

Vaccinations

  • Students are required to submit documentation of immunizations, subject to approved exemptions, including a completed primary series of an FDA- or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine and a single booster of an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. Students in online-only or weekend/evening programs are not subject to the state-mandated vaccines, but students in weekend/evening programs are subject to the University’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
  • All faculty and staff are required to maintain full COVID-19 vaccination status throughout their employment at Wake Forest, subject to approved exemptions. Faculty and staff aged 50+ are encouraged to get a second booster. Please be aware that the booster currently recommended to those over the age of 49 is different from the new bivalent booster expected to be made available this fall. Individuals will be eligible for the new bivalent booster four months after receiving their last shot of the current booster. 
  • New requirement this fall: Our public health advisors have recommended Wake Forest require the new bivalent COVID-19 booster when it becomes available to strengthen our community’s collective immunity against the virus. The bivalent booster is designed to target both the omicron variant and the original coronavirus strain in a single shot with greater efficacy. More information will be available regarding this requirement as vaccine availability is determined. Those who receive the currently available booster will still be required to get the new bivalent booster.
  • Flu vaccine: Last year, Wake Forest required all faculty, staff and students to receive the flu vaccine, in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine series. By October 1, the University will determine whether the flu shot will be required this year. If required, faculty, staff and students will need proof of vaccination by Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. We encourage faculty, staff and students to get a flu shot this fall proactively. HR is scheduling six flu-shot clinics for faculty and staff on and adjacent to the Reynolda campus between September 20 and October 12; registration will be available in the coming weeks. The flu shot will be available to students through Student Health Service and student-specific clinics.

Testing

We encourage students to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before arriving on campus this fall. Students who test positive should isolate away from campus until they meet the criteria for release from isolation. At-home test kits are effective and available for free.

COVID-19 tests are available to students through the Student Health Service and to symptomatic faculty and staff through the Faculty & Staff Clinic

Students who test positive via a home test or by tests administered by healthcare providers should report their positive result to the Student Health Service; faculty and staff should report positive results by emailing wfuwellness@nullwakehealth.edu or by calling 743-223-4217.

Isolation

Wake Forest will approach our isolation protocols this fall in much the same way a household would provide support to a family member with an illness. Students in residence halls who test positive for COVID-19 may isolate in place and recover with the help of campus resources or may choose to go home or elsewhere at their own expense to complete the isolation period, as long as travel is permitted by CDC guidelines (i.e., without using public transportation such as planes, trains, rideshares). This approach is consistent with the way that Wake Forest has traditionally accommodated students with influenza, stomach flu or other viruses. On-campus students living with a roommate who tests positive for COVID-19 and who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 will have the option to temporarily relocate to another room. Student Health and Residence Life and Housing will provide more information to affected students.

Masks

While not currently required, masks remain an effective personal strategy to mitigate the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 as well as other viruses. Faculty and staff may continue to request that students and colleagues wear masks. Colleagues and students should respect and comply with requests to wear a mask. As we monitor our public health conditions, required masking remains a tool in our mitigation response that can be applied if and when conditions warrant it. 

Facilities

Facilities and Campus Services continues to monitor and enhance building ventilation systems, and preventive maintenance is a priority in preparing campus buildings and systems for the fall semester. Through repairs, preventive maintenance, system improvements, and other preparations, campus buildings have been prepared for re-occupancy. As summer progresses into fall, Facilities Operations will continue to seek guidance from leading industry sources in efforts to manage environmental risks as well as the temperature and humidity conditions within our spaces. 

Communication

Wake Forest’s COVID-19 Policy continues to govern the University’s approach as we transition from pandemic to endemic strategies. We will update the policy and communicate new guidance as necessary. Students may direct questions to the Student Health Service. Faculty and staff may direct COVID-related health questions to the Faculty & Staff Clinic and policy questions to askHR@nullwfu.edu.

CDC Recommendations

The University will also continue to monitor and share guidance provided by the CDC for COVID-19 and other public health threats. For Forsyth County, those recommendations currently include the following:

Moving from Emergency Response to Management and Mitigation 

For the past 2.5 years, Wake Forest has responded to the pandemic following an emergency management framework, as warranted by public health conditions. In our transition from pandemic to endemic strategies, we continue to incorporate what we have learned from the pandemic experience about how to integrate campus health management and mitigation approaches and policies within normal University processes. This semester, the University will move from a COVID-19-specific steering committee to a broader campus health model. A Campus Health task force will be charged with the ongoing prevention, response and mitigation activities needed to manage public-health issues, including COVID-19. More details will be forthcoming this fall. 

We are grateful for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our community.

Sincerely,

Hof Milam
Executive Vice President

Michele Gillespie
Provost

Shea Kidd Brown 
Vice President for Campus Life 

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