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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the Executive Vice President on December 14, 2021 at 9:12 p.m.
Subject: URGENT: Campus update on COVID cases

Dear members of the Rockefeller community,

Today the RU Strong COVID-19 testing program identified 7 new positive cases of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the cause of COVID-19) among 135 tests performed today; 3 people had mild symptoms and four were potential contacts of a positive case. This result is the second-most ever positive tests in a single day at Rockefeller (the most since January) and brought the number of positive cases on campus in the last two weeks to 15, the highest it has been since last spring. There have already been as many positive cases on campus in December since the summer peak in August, even though we are only halfway through the month. The vast majority of the recent cases have been in people who are fully vaccinated but have not had a booster shot.

Thankfully, none of the new cases have been associated with serious illness, however 4 of these cases were exposed to the same person who tested positive, strongly suggesting on-campus transmission, which is of serious concern.

These results are alarming for the evidence of spread among the campus community, in conjunction with a doubling of new cases in NYC over the last week.

It is suspected that the Omicron variant, which is believed to be more infectious than the Delta variant, has played a role in this rapid rise, though specific tests for Omicron are not commonly performed. Fortunately, full vaccination, particularly with a booster shot, is protective against serious complications of COVID-19.

This evening, everyone who can reasonably work from home is asked to communicate with your supervisor as soon as possible about doing so for the remainder of this week. As much as we wanted to support social gatherings in advance of the holidays, such gatherings are now strongly discouraged. Everyone who is on campus tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday must submit a testing sample to RU Strong program by 9:30am Thursday.

To minimize our individual risk and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, everyone is urged to continue best practices, wearing face masks and maintaining  social distancing. Data from Rockefeller labs and others in the news show that booster shots are effective in markedly raising levels of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and substantially reduce the risk of serious disease if you become infected with the Delta, and likely the Omicron variants (clinical data on Omicron is thus far scant). It is consequently important for you and your eligible family members to get a booster shot. The Occupational Health Services (OHS) office has booster shots available and sent an email yesterday with more details (it is attached to this email). There is a booster blitz with the Pfizer vaccine on campus on Thursday, December 16. Please sign up for an appointment! This is important not only for yourself, but in recognition that there are many unprotected, including unvaccinated children, immune-compromised individuals and others.

The NY State Department of Health has indicated that all university employees are eligible for booster doses as long as they are over 18 years old and one of the following criteria is met:

  • It has been at least 6 months since the second dose in a primary series of Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccine
  • It has been at least 2 months since the Janssen (J&J) vaccine

Please take care of yourselves and each other. Be well,

Tim

 

Timothy P. O’Connor, PhD

Executive Vice President

The Rockefeller University