The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance from Tuesday will be reviewed but IU has no big changes to its masking policy as of yet, Dr. Aaron Carroll, Chief Health Officer of IU said during an “Ask Aaron” webinar on Wednesday.
The CDC recommended Tuesday that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission rates as COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to rise.
Students and faculty are free to mask if they want, Caroll said. Those who are unvaccinated will be required to mask and are subject to mitigation testing.
The messaging from the CDC can be confusing, he said. While there may be breakthrough cases, they are very mild cases of COVID-19, he said.
“We are safer now than we have ever been,” he said.
Caroll said the Delta variant should be monitored and reviewed but that the focus should be on increasing vaccination rates. Carroll said he’s worried people will think vaccines aren’t enough when vaccines are the best protection against COVID-19.
“The risk is primarily to those who are unvaccinated,” he said.
Caroll said the CDC guidance was also based on how dangerous the area is and IU is expecting vaccination rates to be high when campus is open. Currently IU’s vaccination rate is more than 80%, he said.
The time students and faculty members spend at IU will likely be the safest time of their day, Carroll said.
Carroll said IU’s ethical exemption, which was added July 19, was an attempt to align the COVID-19 policy with the influenza vaccination policy, where an ethical exemption was accepted.
Since its addition, he said he hasn’t seen a spike in people applying for an exemption. There was no press release or email of the exemption’s addition by the university.
There is no way to know if people are telling the truth about their vaccination status, Carroll said, but the vast majority of people do the right thing.
“When it comes to public health, more is better than perfect,” he said.
Carroll said asking people about their vaccination status in classrooms will not be allowed. Faculty members will not be allowed to require students in their classes to mask, but may do so in their individual offices.
“We are not in the business of policing people,” he said.
Students, faculty and staff members will still be expected to report close contacts and positive cases, and IU will still be contact tracing, Carroll said.
Students who need to work remotely, whether sick or immunocompromised will be supported by IU, Carroll said. He said he is also hoping to make on-campus voluntary and symptomatic testing available to all students.