Booster Shot Requirement and Additional COVID-19 Reminders and Precautions for Winter Quarter

December 20, 2021

To: Members of the University Community
From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost, and Katie Callow-Wright, Executive Vice President of the University and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President
Subject: Booster Shot Requirement and Additional COVID-19 Reminders and Precautions for Winter Quarter
Date: December 20, 2021

We want to thank everyone in the University community for your careful adherence to our guidelines related to COVID-19. Our successful Autumn Quarter is due to your efforts, including the strong compliance with the University vaccine requirement. Currently more than 98% of employees, and 97% of students are compliant with the requirement. The unpredictability of this pandemic affirms the importance of the robust public health precautions the University established for Autumn Quarter, including the vaccine requirement, regular testing for the unvaccinated, and universal face coverings. We remain focused on limiting the spread of COVID-19 and rely on consultation from experts from the University of Chicago Medicine, the City, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Contingency plans are in place should it become prudent to reduce in-person activities on campus and we will update you as soon as possible if changes to our public health precautions become necessary.

Many students and their families, as well as faculty and other employees, have asked what they can do during the break to prepare for the Winter Quarter.  We are closely monitoring the rise in COVID-19 cases on campus, in Chicago, and across the United States, due in part to the spread of the Omicron variant. Our goal for this Winter Quarter is to fully return to in-person research and instruction on January 3, 2022 while maintaining robust COVID-19 protocols. To help meet this goal and continue protecting the health and safety of our campus and neighboring communities, the following changes will be implemented:

  • COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots: The University will require students and employees to receive a COVID-19 booster shot once they are eligible. By January 31, 2022, students and employees will need to submit proof of receiving a booster shot or apply for an approved exemption. More information about this new requirement will be shared soon, including where to submit proof of vaccination and exemption requests. In the meantime, we strongly encourage members of the University community to receive a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as they are eligible: six months after completing the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series or two months after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Everyone ages 16 and over is now eligible to get a booster shot. Those who are eligible for a booster shot but have not yet received one should obtain one prior to returning to campus for the Winter quarter.
  • Gatherings: Non-mission critical gatherings on campus, such as holiday parties, should be suspended. While away from campus, avoid gatherings where public health compliance, importantly including masking requirements, or the prevalence of vaccination are unknown to you. If you attend a large gathering where you do not know the general rate of vaccination or where there may be loose adherence to health and safety protocols, testing before and/or after attendance is encouraged. Please note that fully vaccinated individuals can still contract and spread COVID-19.
  • Masking: Face coverings are required at all times, with limited exceptions, for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals while in University buildings. Lowering masks while speaking in class is no longer permitted. When eating and drinking, remove your mask for the shortest time possible, and do so with at least 6 feet of distance if you are not fully vaccinated. Masks are an essential precaution to prevent outbreaks of the Omicron variant, which is currently thought to be more contagious than the Delta variant.
  • Testing: Before traveling, get tested, and follow City of Chicago and CDC guidance for testing and quarantining after travel based on your vaccination status. We urge students get a PCR or antigen COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to returning to campus. We anticipate a period of mandatory weekly testing for students living in on-campus housing and will be communicating details soon.

Please note that the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) will not be implementing a vaccine booster mandate for UCMC employees and clinically active faculty and staff in the Biological Sciences Division. Additional details on UCMC policies will be updated and shared soon.

While there are some who are feeling COVID-19 fatigue and may be tempted to eschew public health precautions, please remember that the health of our entire community depends on the actions of all of us. With the Omicron and Delta variants circulating in the United States, and the fluid and fast changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to remain as vigilant as ever to protect yourselves and others and watch for updates from the University.

We hope you enjoy the holiday break with family and friends, and we are grateful for your commitment to the health and safety of the University community.