COVID-19 update – Here’s what you need to know before the semester starts

By Olivia Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

New semester, same pandemic. Columbia has rolled out COVID-19 guidelines for the Spring 2023 semester.

Here is what you need to know: 

  • Columbia will continue to require vaccinations for students but will not require boosters.
  • To be considered vaccinated, students must have had two shots.
  • Faculty and staff still have no vaccination requirement, but it remains encouraged by the college. 
  • Unvaccinated students no longer need to be tested, and the college will stop on-campus surveillance testing for asymptomatic people.
  • Masks are still required in the classroom. 

Why this matters: COVID-19 is still spreading and causing deaths in Chicago. “I am very pleased that Chicago remains in the Medium Level, even as we remain prepared in case we do move to the High Level in coming weeks. The new Omicron subvariant XBB 1.5 is spreading rapidly in the U.S., and it appears to be the most transmissible yet,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said in a press briefing on Jan. 13.

As of Jan. 13, the XBB 1.5 variant made up 43% of cases nationwide and 14% of cases in the Midwest. 

Consider the numbers: Ninety-four out of 100,000 people tested in Chicago received positive results this week. 

The current campus COVID-19 precaution level remains at “medium” like the city. 

Even though it will not require boosters, the college “strongly recommends” members of the Columbia community get one.

The updated “bivalent” boosters protect against both the original strain and Omicron variants, as reported by the CDC.

The college plans on holding booster clinics in the spring. 

One more thing: Members of the Columbia community – faculty, staff, students and contractors – will still be required to report being positive for COVID-19 here.

The college stopped additional testing for now because it was not finding additional cases. Out of more than 2,000 tests of asymptomatic individuals conducted on campus in the fall semester, only one generated a positive test result, and there were no positive tests in asymptomatic unvaccinated individuals, according to the college. 

The precautions may be updated based on COVID-19 trends, official guidance, expert advice and ongoing consultation with campus stakeholders, including staff and faculty constituent groups, the college said in an announcement.