University remains confident in plan to reopen campus despite increase in delta variant cases

Health experts believe the available vaccines are effective in fighting the variant

University remains confident in plan to reopen campus despite increase in delta variant cases

The delta variant, believed to be a more contagious and deadly version of COVID-19, is now the most dominant strain of the virus in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The variant, first identified in India, accounts for almost 52 percent of current U.S. cases, according to recently updated data from the CDC. Just three weeks ago, the variant accounted for approximately 30 percent of active cases. 

As the available vaccines are said to be mostly effective at fighting against the variant, those who are unvaccinated face an increased risk of catching and spreading the virus in their communities. Currently, just over 48 percent of all Americans are fully vaccinated, with more than 55 percent having received one out of two doses. Over 61 percent of D.C. residents are partially or fully vaccinated. 

According to estimates by the CDC, the delta variant is least prevalent in the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes D.C., Maryland and Virginia, accounting for about 31 percent of the infections in the area.

As American University prepares to return to normal operations on-campus this fall, administration officials are confident that the protocols and guidelines set in place will foster a safe environment for community members. 

David Reitman, the medical director for the AU Student Health Center, said that he is optimistic the variant will not significantly impact the University’s plan to reopen this fall. 

“If you have a community with high vaccination rates, as ours are going to be, the variants should not have too much of an impact,” Reitman told The Eagle. 

On April 14, AU announced that all students who will have a presence on campus this fall must be fully vaccinated. For students traveling from countries where accessibility to approved vaccines is low, they will be required to receive their first vaccine dose days after arriving in D.C., according to Reitman. 

In an email sent to the student body Monday, the University announced that 7,719 students have currently uploaded their proof of vaccination. The deadline to update vaccination status through the student health portal is August 1. 

Provost Peter Starr wrote that the University is confident the available vaccines will fare well against the variants. 

“We are watching the spread of the Delta and Delta Plus variants with great concern, though are very much heartened by the success of the three vaccines currently deployed in the U.S. against those variants,” Starr wrote.

As outlined in the AU Forward: Fall 2021 Health and Safety Plan, the University will subject all fully vaccinated students and faculty members to periodic surveillance testing due to the possibility of the spread of more coronavirus variants,

Reitman said that the University will be ready to modify their plans if the D.C. Department of Health and the CDC announce changes to guidelines.

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