Dr. Melissa Marks is the director of medical services at University Health Services (UHS). She is a Class of 1986 graduate with over 20 years of experience in pediatric, adolescent and young adult medicine. Dr. Marks joined Princeton in May 2020 to oversee UHS’ outpatient medical services, athletic medicine, global and community health, occupational health and the Infirmary, and to help coordinate the University’s response to the pandemic.
Robin Izzo is the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), overseeing laboratory and research safety, radiation safety, biosafety, occupational safety, workplace health, environmental compliance, hazardous waste management, food safety, and emergency preparedness. Since joining EHS in 1992, she has either led or played a large role in the University’s response to public health emergencies, including meningitis B, H1N1, SARS, norovirus, COVID-19 and more.
Dr. Marks: Why is the University shifting away from its booster mandate at this time?
Public health experts continue to unequivocally recommend the basic vaccination series for all people for three main reasons:
o To protect against severe disease and death.
o To limit the reproduction of the virus resulting in new variants globally.
o To limit the strain on our health care resources.
Since the University mandated the primary vaccine series, no new information has arisen to lead the University to change its perspective on this public health mitigation.
Research has shown that subsequent doses of vaccine beyond the primary series provide additional protection to the individual against severe disease. The evidence that it limits the spread of infection is less clear. Therefore, boosters are strongly recommended, but a mandate is not required at this time.
We will continue to monitor both public health conditions and the availability of new boosters now in development and will potentially mandate boosters in the future if circumstances and benefits warrant it.
Robin: Why is the University continuing to allow instructors to require face coverings in classrooms and labs?
Teaching is the primary mission of the University. While one-way masking, where the individual who prefers to mask elects to do so, is an effective mitigation, there are times where a mask impedes the instructor’s ability to teach. Allowing instructors to require students to wear masks provides a layer of protection to the instructor in those circumstances.
Dr. Marks: What guidance can you offer to people with comorbidities or who live with people who may experience a greater severity of disease if they test positive?
We recommend that they follow their healthcare provider’s advice on boosters and additional doses, that they wear a face covering around others, and avoid as much as possible crowded areas or spaces with high numbers of unmasked individuals. Students should contact UHS as their healthcare provider.
Robin: Why did the University remove the attestation requirement for visitors and return to the pre-pandemic locking schedule for campus buildings?
The criteria for visitors have not changed: they are still required to be vaccinated or to have recently testing negative or wear a mask indoors around other people, and they are still required to be prepared to show proof of vaccination or a negative test upon request.
Since we are not currently requiring routine testing, indoor masking, or boosters for our campus community, we are asking more from our visitors than from our faculty, staff, and students. Removing the attestation requirement and returning to pre-pandemic locking schedules enables the University community to more easily engage with visitors, while still allowing individual hosts the flexibility to be more stringent.