Message from Dean Ouellette - Feb. 28 Update on COVID protocols
February 28, 2022
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
As we enter this seventh week of the semester and see Covid restrictions being lifted around us, many of you are asking about the law school’s plans. I write to explain where we are and what you can expect in the coming weeks.
For this week, we will maintain the protocols that have remained in place this semester, limiting eating to the cafeteria, conducting surveillance testing, and requiring masks. We continue these precautions for a number of reasons.
First, Albany County continues to experience community spread as measured by two metrics that have guided our decision-making throughout: the positivity rate and number of cases per 100,000 people. With a positivity rate of 3.65% and case rate of 77.58 per 100,000 people over the last 7 days, Albany County has improved dramatically from the Omicron peak, but is not yet at low enough levels for the law school to deem it safe to relax restrictions.
Second, we are watching the results of surveillance testing within our community following the relaxation of mask mandates outside the school and the end of the Presidents Day week. With a community that includes a number of vulnerable faculty, staff, and students, we believe it prudent to continue the practices that have kept us safe until we have more data about the impact of relaxed restrictions in the community at large.
Starting March 7
Should community transmission rates and the law school’s own numbers continue to go down this week, we anticipate opening the East Foyer for gatherings and events that include food and drink. The law school has already approved a number of large off-campus events, and we would like to see more on-campus events that include food and drink. Outside guests will continue to need to provide proof of vaccination including boosters, or a recent negative Covid test.
The East Foyer will also be available for students who wish to eat or drink outside the cafeteria.
As we monitor the effect of loosened restrictions in the Albany community and in our campus community, the law school will continue to require masks, including in the West Foyer and in classrooms.
Following Spring Break
During spring break, and in the weeks that follow, law school leadership will continue to monitor community spread and the positivity rates on campus. We will also consult with public health experts. It is our sincere hope that we will be in a position to further relax Covid protocols without causing undue risk to vulnerable faculty, students, or staff.
As you know, the law school requires vaccinations and boosters for all community members who have not received medical or religious exemptions. We have about 40 community members who have just recently become eligible for the booster, and the requirement continues. Having a fully boosted population is a key to loosening other restrictions as it provides a layer of safety for everyone who spends time in classrooms and offices for extended periods of time. We will not be in a position to significantly loosen other restrictions until those individuals who still need a booster get and document their booster shot. If you have been notified that you need to get boosted, please do so as soon as possible.
As we continue to navigate a challenging situation, we will stay in touch with regular updates. We recognize that many of you would make different judgments for our community. Even so, we are grateful for your cooperation with the protocols as they stand. Your cooperation has allowed us to remain open for in-person learning and to begin to open the school for more visitors and events. We hope to see that trend continue.
To better days ahead.
All my best,
President and Dean