Breaking: College requires COVID-19 booster 

Allison Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

Whitman is officially requiring all members of the campus community receive a COVID-19 booster by Jan. 15, 2022. 

The decision was announced in an email from President Kathy Murray sent on Dec. 13 amid a growing number of cases on campus linked back to Thanksgiving break travel.

The email cited the spike in cases, as well as the CDC’s recommendation that all eligible adults receive a booster, “either six months after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or two months after their first dose of Johnson & Johnson” as reasoning. 

Anyone with a religious or medical COVID-19 vaccine exemption will not be required to receive the booster. 

The new booster requirement will obligate all members of the campus community to provide documentation of their vaccination status or apply for an exception. Instructions for how to do so will be provided in a follow-up email later this week. 

In an email to The Wire, Coronavirus Task Force Chair Peter Harvery said that despite recent developments, “we are not at this point considering returning to online or hybrid learning.”

“Until this week’s recent outbreak of COVID cases on campus, we saw that diligently following the COVID protocols throughout the fall made it possible for us to keep cases low enough to support in-person learning,” Harvey wrote. “Having 98% of our community already vaccinated combined with the new booster requirement and continued face masking gives me confidence we can continue in-person learning safely.”

According to Harvey, COVID-19 protocol for the spring semester will be determined by CDC and state guidance. The College will continue to closely monitor community compliance with COVID-19 protocols and be vigilant to evidence of on-campus transmission. 

Harvey expressed optimism that the college can adapt to the new challenges posed by the Omicron variant. 

“Its emergence definitely reminds us all that we need to remain vigilant in maintaining our practices to reduce the risk of transmission,” Harvey said. 

Despite the increasing media coverage of the Omicron variant, the Delta variant poses a more immediate concern locally. 

Murray wrote, “here in Walla Walla and around the U.S. the Delta variant currently causes 99% of new infections, and we know that our existing vaccines are highly effective against it. Research on the efficacy of current vaccines against the Omicron variant is underway, but scientists expect that, with boosters, they will provide significant protection even if Omicron proves more infectious than Delta.”

Information on how to receive a booster vaccination in Walla Walla is available on the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health’s COVID-19 website