The Ivy League university offered to provide $25,000 to celebrate annual class traditions if at least 95 percent of the students from a particular class year agreed to upload information about their COVID-19 booster shots and flu vaccines and complete biweekly surveillance tests by the end of February. However, as of March 1, just 60 percent of the students in the schools four classes had provided the university with this information.
This means that none of the class years reach the level required to obtain the money the university was offering for class traditions, which are annual events that take place to celebrate the end of the school year. Some examples include walking around campus with canes and hats and barbecues with music.
The chief wellness officer at the school claimed that the incentive's aim was to encourage what it termed “good behaviors and smart choices” and foster a “community of care.”
Although it is easy to think of reasons students were unwilling to comply, it is also worth noting that the university had never even committed to holding the events in the first place. The executive director of public health and well-being at the school told the campus newspaper: “We are very hopeful that we will get to release and remove restrictions, which is why we are hopeful that the events we tied the money to will happen.”
The school’s students, faculty and staff are required to have COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, except for online students who do not intend to visit campus. Students can apply for religious or medical exemptions, however.
Despite the university's ongoing push to get students to comply with uploading their booster vaccine status, COVID-19 positivity rates on the campus have remained fairly stable. The rate for the week from February 20 to 26 was 1.17 percent, which is only slightly higher than the 0.98 percent noted the week before. The positivity rate decreased among graduate students, however, falling below 1 percent for the first time in the semester to 0.99 percent.
On March 1, administrators sent an email announcing that the university would be extending its deadline for uploading booster shot information until March 14. Those community members who fail to upload this information by the deadline will be required to undergo COVID-19 screening testing through the school twice a week. Vaccinated students, meanwhile, are only required to undergo screening testing once every other week. Those who have tested positive for the virus within the last 90 days will be exempt from screening testing but must continue to report symptoms and exposures using the school's PennOpen Pass system.
The stable campus positivity rate echoes statewide trends. Pennsylvania recently noted its lowest average daily case count since August. The number of students in isolation has also been dropping steadily, hitting a semester low of 48 students from February 20 to 26, which was significantly lower than the 96 noted the week before. A semester high was recorded during the week from January 9 to 15, when a total of 1,318 students were in isolation.
In late February, administrators announced that double masking and using KN95 or similar masks in campus buildings would no longer be required, although community members must still wear masks inside all campus buildings.
It's hard to believe that the university thought that extra funding for year-end social events would be enough to convince holdouts to share their vaccination records with administrators, and the fact that they did not even come close to reaching their target says a lot about how students view these requirements.
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