Lewis & Clark Seeing High Vaccination Rates, Limited COVID Cases
Dear Lewis & Clark Community,
As we begin the fifth week of classes at Lewis & Clark, we have good news to report about COVID-19.
With the deadline for compliance with our vaccination policies now behind us, we have achieved a remarkably high vaccination rate. Ninety-eight percent of the students in each of our three schools are fully vaccinated, as are 99 percent of our employees. Students will also hit the 99 percent vaccination mark later this week when the small number of students who were unable to access vaccines this summer receive their second dose of vaccine. The handful of remaining employees and students not vaccinated have approved exemptions (e.g. for medical or religious reasons) or are working through the exemptions process.
The results of our testing clinics are similarly encouraging. Of the 2032 tests administered on-campus this semester, only 7 students and 1 contractor tested positive for the virus, for a test positivity rate of 0.39 percent. Another 11 community members have reported to the College that they tested positive off-campus for COVID-19 during this same time period.
Test positivity rates for symptomatic students also are proving to be low. Knowing that COVID-19 symptoms can mimic the common cold in vaccinated individuals, students have been quick to use the COVID Self-Check and Reporting Form in the Health Information Portal to report concerning symptoms to the Health Service. The Health Service has administered more than 200 COVID-19 tests to symptomatic students to date, with a test positivity rate of one percent.
Finally, in the limited instances when on-campus or off-campus testing has identified a positive COVID case, our contact tracing efforts have proven to be highly effective. To date, we have identified more than 130 close contacts of our community members diagnosed with COVID. Consistent with CDC guidance, we have offered testing to these individuals, typically within 3-5 days of exposure. To date, our test positivity percentage for close contacts (all of whom have been vaccinated) is between one and two percent. None of the positive cases identified via testing of close contacts has been the result of classroom transmission.
Credit for these low infection and high vaccination rates goes to campus community members who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to keep each other safe while allowing Lewis & Clark to continue to offer its high-quality, in-person education. Together, you have made the difference and helped establish a model for other colleges to follow.
Despite this good news, it is critical that we remain vigilant moving forward. The pandemic is not over, and ensuring that the virus does not make inroads on our campus will require community members to follow public health guidance and college policy about wearing masks, hand hygiene, symptom reporting (even with mild symptoms), self-isolation in the wake of symptoms, and other risk mitigation strategies.
We have also crafted a testing strategy that is consistent with CDC guidance: We will continue to test students who report COVID-like symptoms, as well as students, employees or contractors who have been in close contact with a positive COVID case. We are also continuing with weekly surveillance testing of unvaccinated students, employees and contractors. We are currently conducting more than 100 tests each week, and anticipate testing approximately the same number of individuals per week moving forward.
In addition to monitoring our own testing results, we will continue to regularly monitor community transmission rates in the metropolitan area as well as our capacity to provide residential students with isolation and quarantine housing. If any of these metrics indicate a concerning increase in COVID cases on campus or in our community, we will adjust our testing approach as appropriate.