Earlier today, DePaul University announced they will require students, faculty and staff to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster by March 1, alongside new mask requirements prohibiting single cloth masks.
Students who fail to submit proof of their booster shot will not be eligible to register for spring quarter classes. Likewise, law students will be dropped from in-person classes if they choose not to comply with the mandate. Exceptions to the new booster mandate include those who were exempt from DePaul’s original vaccine mandate due to medical or religious purposes.
“The Covid-19 vaccines help prevent severe illness and hospitalization, however, their effectiveness may decrease over time,” the announcement read. “Getting a booster can help increase immune response to further protect ourselves and the community from serious illness.”
DePaul health sciences professor Craig Klugman said vaccine boosters are important due to “studies [documenting] a decreasing immune response among those who are immunocompromised and the rise of omicron.” Klugman also mentioned some vaccines based on the original variant might not be as effective against the now-prevalent omicron variant; despite this, vaccinated Covid-19 patients have less severe symptoms.
“If you look at who is in the hospital with the omicron variant now, 90 percent of them are unvaccinated, and close to 99 percent of the deaths are among the unvaccinated,” Klugman said. “Data shows that ‘fully vaccinated’ people have 70 percent infection from symptomatic Covid-19, but those with boosters have 90 percent protection.”
DePaul’s announcement suggests those who receive the booster and are exposed to Covid-19, will not have to quarantine unless they experience symptoms. Those who do not get the booster would have to quarantine for at least five days after exposure regardless.
In addition to the booster, DePaul’s updated mask mandate will be in place when DePaul returns to an in-person learning environment this coming Tuesday. This has to do with exposure to infection time by mask type.
“New studies looked at risk of infection based on the type of mask that you and another person wear,” Klugman said. “The results show that if two people, in [the] same space, are wearing cloth masks, and one is infected, it takes 30 minutes for the second person to be exposed to the virus. But if both people are wearing N95 masks, then it takes 25 hours for exposure.”
DePaul said they will not provide students with KN95 masks, but eventually plan to make a limited amount available on first-floor desk areas located near building entrances.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests a single KN95 mask can be used for five instances. How many uses a person gets in a day may vary, but a typical day could include three to five uses. A 20-pack of KN95 masks is available on Amazon for $30, which, if a student gets all five uses in a day, could cost students upwards of $66 for the remainder of the winter quarter and even more for spring.
Students unable to get a KN95 mask may use a cloth mask with a surgical mask underneath it. Until DePaul can provide KN95 masks, they will have surgical masks available for students to place underneath their cloth masks.