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University extends indoor mask requirement until further notice

Seton Hall will require masks indoors on all its campuses until further notice, according to a Thursday email from the Health Intervention and Communication Team (HICT). 

The extension of the requirement, originally announced on July 29, comes after the Seton Hall advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors published a “letter of concern” regarding the fall semester. The faculty group called for indoor masking, testing and a stricter vaccine requirement.

In addition to a mask mandate, HICT announced that members of the community who seek vaccine mandate exemptions will be required to get tested. It did not mention any changes to the vaccine mandate, under which community members can voluntarily upload their vaccine cards to a health services portal.

The email also vouched for the reliability of the University’s confidential vaccine declaration,  a self-reported questionnaire which the administration is using to gauge vaccination levels. 

“The University has independently verified the reported vaccination status of students who are New Jersey residents through a random sampling analysis,” the email said. “The analysis compared information gathered through the Confidential Vaccine Declaration to information in the State of New Jersey Immunization Information System vaccination database. The analysis confirmed that at least 95% of students accurately declared they are vaccinated.” 

It is not clear what the University’s independent analysis entailed or how out-of-state students factor into the numbers.

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“While we do not know what circumstances the virus will throw at us next, we remain prepared,” the HICT email said. “Our environmental health and safety protocols – created in consultation with numerous health and higher education experts – enables us to adapt to the rapidly changing situation.”

The extended mandate comes amid concerns that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-19 can be spread by vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not track breakthrough cases, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of data from the 24 states that do track breakthrough infections show that the vaccine was highly effective — though not perfect — at preventing infections, serious symptoms, and death.

As a part of an effort to get New Jersey residents vaccinated, Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Monday that fully vaccinated individuals accounted for 18.5% of all new cases, 3% of all new hospitalizations, and no new deaths.

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Daniel O’Connor can be reached at daniel.oconnor1@student.shu.edu. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.

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