On May 17, William Jewell College transitioned from Level B of Operation Safe Campus (OSC) to Level A2 of Operation Resurgent Campus (ORC) following a satisfactory employee vaccination rate of above 84%, according to a mass email sent to students and employees.
The May 14 email – delivered on the Friday preceding the college’s transition date – stated that students and employees can expect to begin the 2021-22 academic year in Level A2 of Operation Resurgent Campus. With most students off-campus for the summer, the immediate changes to guidelines would most impact employees finishing up work beyond May 17.
Among the new guidelines, the email states:
- “All employees are expected to return to work on campus. If an employee has a need to continue remote work, they should request an accommodation from Human Resources as well as supervisory approval, unless otherwise stated on the employee job description.
- Facial coverings are not required in outdoor settings.
- Facial coverings are not required indoors for vaccinated individuals, but non-vaccinated individuals are advised to wear facial coverings per CDC guidelines or until the current Clay County order expires. Facial coverings are encouraged for any who deem it appropriate for personal well-being.
- Recognize social distancing as/when posted.”
The decision to transition to ORC follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s controversial May 13 update to facial covering recommendations for fully vaccinated persons. Also succeeding the CDC’s update, Clay County expired its facial covering mandate in an announcement on May 14, leaving the decision to continue implementing precautions up to individual businesses and organizations.
Independent of the CDC update, the email reasons that transmission risk for individuals on campus this summer will be minimal:
“The decision to reduce these restrictions is a result of the College achieving herd immunity on a micro level. During the summer months, the majority of individuals on campus will be vaccinated, thus the risk of transmission on campus is lower.”
Additionally, further changes to guidelines will be heavily dependent on national, local and campus-wide circumstances over the summer and into fall. To transition from Level A2 to Level A1 of ORC, Jewell must “confirm that enough students are vaccinated to sustain local jurisdiction immunity expectations,” the email states.
Specifically, in accordance with ORC’s current risk-assessment structure, the college may only graduate from Level A2 to Level A1 once at least 40% of students are fully vaccinated, along with at least 50% of all on-campus persons. As of May 20, over half (50.7%) of Missouri adults have received at least one dose of a multi-dose COVID-19 vaccine – either Pfizer or Moderna – and 42.5% of Missouri adults are fully vaccinated, according to an approximate, interactive data report by Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Meanwhile, 31.1% of Clay County residents have initiated the vaccination process and 26.9% are fully vaccinated.
Despite a national estimation by CDC showing a continuous decline in transmission of the virus in upcoming weeks, the resulting expiration of precautionary guidelines has some healthcare workers worried. National Nurses United, the largest union and professional association for nurses in the United States, published a 17-page document in response to the CDC’s update, stating their disapproval for some of the data used to reach such a decision.
“The studies cited by the CDC in this brief provide an incomplete picture of vaccine efficacy,” the association wrote with concern about recent virus variants. “Important questions remain unanswered about the longevity of vaccine protection, efficacy of vaccines against mild and asymptomatic [COVID-19], and impact of variants of concern that are more transmissible and that are or may become resistant to vaccine protection.
With the virus still very present in the United States, and even now reaching a crisis point in India, the situation is subject to change over time; heeding the uniqueness of the pandemic, Jewell’s ORC email update concludes:
“As a reminder, the College’s response to the pandemic will remain fluid for the next several months as our country reopens. Should the country and/or our community experience an unexpected and unfortunate setback resulting in an increase in incidence rates, the College may implement protocols in OSC Level B.”
*This article was updated on 28 May 2021 to include a link to Operation Resurgent Campus’s webpage at https://www.jewell.edu/operation-resurgent-campus.