Beginning March 1, Stanford will no longer require vaccinated faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars to take weekly COVID-19 tests. This new policy will extend to all fully vaccinated students starting the third week of spring quarter.
In an email sent to community members on Thursday, University officials explained the Testing and Vaccine Committee has determined that a “risk-based approach with rapid diagnosis and response” for symptomatic individuals is the most effective way to manage the spread of COVID-19.
The decision to lengthen the testing period for students was influenced by the expectation that a large number would return to on-campus housing in a short amount of time after spring break, Provost Persis Drell, Dean of Stanford School of Medicine Lloyd Minor and Associate Vice Provost of Environmental Health and Safety Russell Furr said in the email.
“We are fortunate to have a highly vaccinated community, and we also have gained greater experience with the Omicron variant, which among vaccinated individuals has generally resulted in fewer serious cases and hospitalizations than previous variants,” they wrote. Still, they added that the University is prepared to adjust testing based on future variants and increased COVID-19 cases. As of Feb. 14, 95% of all Health Check users are fully vaccinated, with 237 students currently in isolation.
Stanford is expecting instruction to be held in-person during spring quarter, according to the announcement. Student gatherings will likely be limited during the first weeks of spring quarter due to the administration finding “many positive cases attributable to social gatherings.”
The University plans to distribute rapid tests to students planning to travel for break. They will be expected to take the tests prior to returning to campus, according to the email. Students that test positive for COVID-19 should delay their return to campus and update their Health Check. Students returning to campus will test two times with Color in their first week back and once during their second week. Students who choose to stay on campus over break will take one Color test a week for the first two weeks of spring quarter. The University expects improved turnaround times for results, citing “fewer tests being processed in Color’s system” as compared to delays in the beginning of the winter quarter.
The move by the University comes after California lifted its statewide mask mandate for vaccinated individuals on Feb. 16. Earlier today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced California’s plan for the “next phase” of the pandemic with less stringent restrictions. Current masking requirements are still in place, in compliance with Santa Clara County guidelines. However, the University says it will monitor these guidelines and inform community members of any changes.