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This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the Executive Vice President on January 12, 2022 at 9:00 p.m.
Subject: COVID-19 policy updates

Dear members of the Rockefeller community,

The surge in COVID-19 cases that began in December has continued since the New Year. At Rockefeller, the number of positive tests so far this month is over 150 and there have been more cases in the past 5 weeks than we’ve recorded during the rest of the entire pandemic. If you download the attachment below, you can see the data for the lookback metric of number of positive cases in our community in the preceding two week period. This metric is also now posted at the top of the university’s COVID-19 website so that everyone can access it in real-time. Although there is increasing and legitimate debate about the value of the number of positive cases for determining public health policy, we continue to track it carefully. Combined with quarantine and isolation policies, positive cases are a threat to the ability of the campus to maintain baseline operations and they are indicative of the potential exposure of others, including those in vulnerable populations.

Given the continuing surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the city and beyond, the university is extending through January 31 the guidance issued on December 15. Please see this link for the complete listing of policies and guidance that are being extended through January 31.

One exception to the guidance and policies that were issued on December 15 is that, in the spirit of balancing safety considerations with health and wellness, the gym in Founder’s Hall will be re-opened starting tomorrow, Thursday, January 13. The number of people permitted at a given time will be posted in the different areas of the gym. Everyone who was approved for gym access during the pandemic will remain eligible on the condition that they have documented with OHS receipt of a booster shot for COVID-19 vaccination. More detailed policies about the use of the gym will be posted on the entry door. If you were not previously approved for access to the gym and would like to apply, please send an email to benefit@rockefeller.edu.

In response to some questions and comments that have been submitted, below are some additional points of guidance about the current policies:

  • While people should only be coming to campus to perform work that cannot be done remotely, the university remains committed to supporting the mission of science for the benefit of humanity. If individuals have questions or concerns about the specific interpretation of this guidance, please send them to restart@rockefeller.edu.
  • Groups of people eating indoors need to do so in conditions in which social distance is maintained.
  • The university continues to offer N95 respirators to employees who commute to the university using public transportation. We strongly encourage enrollment in this program. Enrollment does require compliance with the university respiratory protection program and must be requested by the Head of Laboratory or Department. Requests for enrollment and questions about the program should be sent to restart@rockefeller.edu.
  • As announced last week, the university has procured KN95 face masks and made an initial distribution through the stockroom to everyone in the community. We plan to make additional KN95 masks available next week.
  • As more data (especially for the Omicron variant) become available, the Occupational Health Office and others are reviewing the university’s isolation and quarantine policies and expect to announce modifications within the next week

It is obvious that Omicron is infecting vastly more people at Rockefeller and in NYC than prior variants. Part of this is due to waning of antibodies in the months after complete vaccination, but also due to evasion of pre-existing antibodies. While the clinical course of Omicron is believed to be slightly milder than that of previous variants, COVID deaths in the US have increased to more than 1700 per day, and hospitalizations for COVID are currently at an all-time high.

For these reasons, everyone who is eligible (at least 5 months beyond completion of vaccination) should get a booster shot. Boosters have been shown to be very safe, with safety profiles like those of previous doses of vaccine. Importantly, boosters: 1) markedly increase the level of neutralizing antibodies in plasma, which increases protection from infection with all SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron; 2) increase protection from developing severe disease, including Omicron; 3) reduce risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 infection to others, including the Omicron variant. Boosters are thus directly beneficial to the person getting the booster and also reduce the risk of infection for members of our families and communities.

Over seventy-five percent of eligible Rockefeller employees have already had a booster shot. Boosters are readily available at Rockefeller and elsewhere. Get a booster now to stay safe and protect yourselves and one another! Another email about booster shots will be sent out to the community this week.

As evidenced by the data in the attachment that can be downloaded below, positive cases within our community have not yet plateaued. Hopefully we will see a plateau followed by a rapid decline soon. We all look forward to a time when we can begin to relax some of the current policies safely.

If you have any questions about the current policies and guidance, please send an email to restart@rockefeller.edu

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

Tim

P.S. Many thanks to my colleagues Chris Keogh, Frank Schaefer and Amy Wilkerson for their tireless efforts to procure and make these masks widely available!

 

Timothy P. O’Connor, PhD

Executive Vice President

The Rockefeller University

PDF Files (click to download):
RU COVID cases 01 12 22.pdf