A person receiving a vaccine. Governor Hochul announced the new mandate for students to receive their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. CHRISTIAN EMMER/CC BY-NC 4.0

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced during a New Year’s Eve COVID-19 briefing that students in the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, once eligible, in order to return to campus for the spring semester. The mandate will take effect on Jan. 15, 2022.

According to campus-wide email sent by the Division of Student Affairs on Jan. 1, all students must obtain a booster and submit proof to the Wolfie Health Portal by Jan. 20. If students already have an approved medical or religious exemption, they will not be required to obtain a booster.

“We are asking all schools to ensure that students, before they return, are boosted. They are required to be vaccinated; now we’re putting on an additional requirement,” Hochul said.

Students ineligible to get a booster shot when the mandate takes effect are allowed to remain on campus. Once eligible, a booster shot is required to stay on campus.

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Currently all adults ages 18 years and older are eligible for a booster shot if they have received a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eligibility for a booster shot has also been expanded to 16 and 17-year-olds who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Hochul also announced that all SUNY and CUNY faculty must be vaccinated. Currently 90% of employees at Stony Brook University are vaccinated, according to the Stony Brook COVID-19 Dashboard. Additional guidelines to be followed on campus include wearing masks in all indoor public spaces and proof of a negative COVID-19 test before returning to school. 

Quarantine and isolation policies that follow state and CDC guidelines are required to be put into place by schools. Schools must also report random sampling throughout the semester.

“This is how we are going to ensure these campuses stay open,” Hochul said.

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According to the SUNY COVID-19 case tracker, 13,330 on-campus COVID-19 tests returned positive, which is a 0.45% rate, since the start of the pandemic. On SUNY campuses, almost 3 million COVID-19 tests have been administered.

During the fall 2021 semester, fully vaccinated residential students were required to get tested for COVID-19 every other week, and commuter students on a monthly basis.

President Maurie McInnis sent out a campus-wide email on Dec. 23, addressing concerns about the rapid emergence of the Omicron variant in preparation for the upcoming spring semester.

“We anticipate proceeding with our winter session and spring semester as planned and will continue to employ the public health practices that have served Stony Brook University well to this point: masks will be required indoors on our campus, along with regular testing,” she said. 

Stony Brook University officials wrote in an email to The Statesman, “COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have proven highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. They are important tools to keep our campus and the wider community safe as we observe a rise in COVID cases in New York State.”

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Those eligible can receive a booster shot at Stony Brook’s R&D Park, which is open from Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. or on Sundays, from 8 a.m. to noon.

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