Members of the Ithaca College administration discussed COVID-19 booster shots, Family Weekend, commencement and class registration at the All Student and Family Virtual Gathering on Oct. 26.
Family Weekend will be held on campus from Nov. 5 to 7, Jacqueline Winslow, director of New Student and Transition Programs, said. There was no in-person family weekend in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the college remaining remote for the fall semester. Events will be held in person and some spaces will have capacity limits to adhere to COVID-19 policies. Specifically, capacity limits are in place for the People of Progress Panel with Interim President La Jerne Cornish, which will be held at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 6 in the Emerson Suites, and the One World Concert, which will be hosted by the Ithaca College International Club at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Emerson Suites. The One World Concert is designed to showcase arts of cultural significance across the United States and internationally.
“We are asking families and visitors to mask if they are unvaccinated and to mask if they are indoors … we are not checking vaccination status with our visitors,” Winslow said.
A full schedule for Family Weekend can be found online, Winslow said. Many events require RSVPs to ensure that capacity limits are met and appropriate amounts of food are prepared.
Samm Swarts, assistant director of Emergency Preparedness and Response, also spoke about the issue of COVID-19 on campus. Student adherence to policies surrounding COVID-19 has kept infection rates very low, Swarts said, and because of a 99% vaccination rate for students on campus, there is no evidence of virus transmission in classroom settings.
Currently, there are two active student cases of COVID-19, both of which are off-campus students, and one active employee case, according to the college’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
There is no plan for COVID-19 booster shots to be offered on campus at this time, Swarts said, but there are many vaccination facilities in the wider Ithaca community.
Currently, booster shots are only available for individuals who meet specific conditions. Individuals who originally received the two-dose Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago and are over 65, 50–64 years old with underlying medical conditions or over 18 and living in long-term care facilities, working in high-risk facilities or who have specific underlying medical conditions are eligible, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Individuals who are over 18 and received the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine over two months ago are also eligible.
“At this moment most of our students are actually not eligible for booster shots … but what I would encourage is that any student, faculty and staff who may be eligible to get their booster shot do so when it is convenient,” Swarts said.
In addition to high COVID-19 vaccination rates, Swarts said there was very high participation in a recent flu vaccination Point of Dispensing held on campus. Although flu vaccinations are not required, students who were not able to participate in the on-campus vaccination program are encouraged to get their flu shot at a local pharmacy.
Currently, booster shots are available at Kinney Drugs, Tops Market, CVS, Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and Wegmans Pharmacy for those who are eligible, according to the Tompkins County Health Department.
Because COVID-19 rates are so low, plans for in-person commencement ceremonies have been announced for both December and May graduations, Registrar Vikki Levine said. The December graduation will be held in the college’s Athletics and Events Center and the deadline to RSVP to the event is Nov. 15.
Spring commencement will also be held in person and indoors in two separate ceremonies held May 22, Doreen Hettich-Atkins, executive director of Student Affairs and Campus Life, said. Graduates will have the opportunity to select which of the two ceremonies they want to participate in February.
The college’s Los Angeles program has resumed this semester, prompting questions from attendants about how that program is operating with regards to COVID-19.
Participants in the program are required to follow the same COVID-19 protocols as students in Ithaca, as well as adhere to any additional local requirements, Levine said. Otherwise the program is operating for the most part as it normally would.
“While there are a lot of internships available, it is not the wealth that is typically available so students need to be just a little bit more flexible with their placements,” Levine said.
Registration for winter semester begins Nov. 1 with spring semester registration opening shortly after, Levine said. Students are encouraged to use campus and family resources to make this process run smoothly. Students can look to academic advisors for advice, as well as peer leaders, academic success coaches and associate or assistant deans in their individual schools, Levine said. Levine also encouraged students to have open conversations with their families about registration, upcoming courses and their satisfaction with their midterm grades.
“If things don’t go perfect the morning of [a student’s] time ticket it’s really okay, we have a ton of resources here on campus,” Levine said.