The American College Health Association released on Monday its latest recommendations for Covid-19 policy on college campuses. The guidelines come as the country prepares to enter its second pandemic winter, and the world awaits more news on whether the Omicron variant is more infectious or deadly than its predecessors.
The American College Health Association leans strongly in favor of vaccinating as many people on campus as possible. In addition, the guidelines say that familiar Covid-mitigation measures — masking, social distancing, testing, and contact tracing — should remain in place, to varying degrees, depending on local circumstances. “The pandemic has not ended and so we need to continue to put the appropriate mitigation strategies in place,” said Anita Barkin, co-chair of the association’s Covid-19 task force.
At the same time, the ACHA’s leaders are holding off on recommending that colleges require booster shots. Previously, the association recommended colleges mandate primary Covid-19 vaccine series. But before pushing colleges to require boosters, association leaders first want to see whether people on campus who are already fully vaccinated have a high rate of breakthrough infections. Even frequent, but mild, breakthrough infections could be cause to suggest mandating boosters. “We still have the potential for those individuals to spread disease to those who have higher risk for serious infection,” Barkin said.
In addition, if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster shot, then the ACHA would follow, Barkin said.
Elsewhere in the guidelines, the association is more relaxed about surveillance testing than it has been in the past. The group recognizes that some institutions may boast high vaccination and low infection rates both on campus and in the surrounding community. In such cases, colleges may wish to test less frequently, although the ACHA doesn’t recommend stopping surveillance altogether since such testing can signal when cases rise again.