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COVID-19 Information

COVID-19 FAQs

About COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (SARS-COV-2) is one virus in the family of coronaviruses, which include MERS, SARS, and other respiratory illnesses, including the common cold. The virus is inhaled and infects the cells lining the respiratory tract. The inhaled fluid particles that contain the virus are so small they hang in the air for hours and go with the air flow. The infection begins by the virus attaching to one of the cells lining the respiratory tract. The details of how the spike protein of the virus attaches to the ACE-2 receptor of the respiratory cell (and how the spike protein then changes shape to pull the virus into the cell so the lipid membranes of the cell and virus fuse and the viral RNA is thereby inside the cell) has been well worked out. The infected cell becomes a virus factory, releasing virus to spread to the other cells lining the respiratory tract, including the cells lining the air sacs of the lung. These air-sac cells are in contact with cells lining the blood vessels so that the virus spreads from the lungs through the bloodstream to all the organs of the body including the heart, gut, kidney, and brain. Thus, in the unvaccinated, infected patient, COVID is a serious, life-threatening, multi-organ, systemic disease.

The multi-organ, systemic, potentially lethal COVID-19 disease is changed by vaccination into a relatively mild upper respiratory viral infection. How does that work? 

Vaccines and prior infections work to induce antibody in the blood, so when a vaccinated or previously infected person gets an infection, the antibody in the blood prevents the virus from spreading throughout the body, limiting the spread to the upper respiratory tract (nose, trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles).

Antibody induced by vaccine or prior infection stops infection by attaching to the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus and inhibiting attachment or fusion of the virus to a cell. However, once a cell is infected, antibody cannot get into the cell or stop virus production.

Fortunately, vaccine or prior infection also induce the creation of a special type of blood cells, called T lymphocytes, which attack virus-infected cells and are essential for recovering from the infection.

The body can also produce a different class of (non-blood) antibody that it puts into mucous secretions of the respiratory tract. These types of “frontline” antibodies help protect the individual at the starting point of infection, the mucous secretions. Unfortunately, the injected vaccines do not induce mucous-based antibody, only blood-based antibody. However, history of infection appears to help generate mucous-based antibody for at least a short while after infection.

Vaccination and Booster Shots

What COVID-19 vaccines should I get?

Preferable are the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna series, with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson a distant third. Other vaccines (e.g., Sinovac) will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Health Services.

What are the implications of vaccination for quarantine and isolation?

Unvaccinated persons usually shed the COVID-19 virus for about 10 days. During this time, the body’s immune system is gearing up to develop T lymphocytes to attack the virus “factory” cells and shut them down. Little antibody is produced during this period. 

Vaccinated persons will have the blood antibody and T lymphocytes that protect them against systemic infection, but not against a breakthrough upper respiratory viral infection. It is highly likely that this infection will stimulate production of the mucous respiratory antibody and protect them against future breakthrough infections. Because of the pre-existing (vaccine-induced) cell-mediated immunity, virus-shedding and the consequent infectivity is shortened to about 5 days as opposed to the 10 days for unvaccinated people. Only time will tell how long this immunity may last and whether a new variant will arise which can escape the antibody T-cell immunity.

See also the Quarantine and Isolation section, below.

Why is Lasell requiring a booster shot?

Booster shots of mRNA coronavirus vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) increase antibodies by a factor of ~10. Boosters can provide further protection against the Omicron variant. Early data shows that this variant is more transmissible than other variants. Lasell is requiring all eligible students, faculty, and staff, without a prior waiver, to obtain a booster shot by February 2, 2022. On that day, the university will be hosting a booster clinic for those who have not yet obtained a booster shot. Students can sign up for a spot in that booster clinic by clicking here: www.mhealthsystem.com/LasellUniversity.

What booster shots are acceptable?

As with vaccines, preferable are the Pfizer or Moderna booster, with a Johnson & Johnson booster a distant third.

When should I get a booster shot?

If you are eligible now, we encourage you to get the booster shot before returning to campus. You are eligible for a booster shot five months after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and two months after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As noted, if you are not yet eligible to receive a booster shot by February 2, a temporary exemption will be granted, and you will be expected to receive the booster shot within one week of eligibility.

I was positive a few days/weeks/months ago. Should I still get a booster shot, and if so, when?

Yes, a booster shot is still required. Guidelines currently indicate you may get a booster shot as early as 2 weeks from a positive test result. If you still feel ill, are symptomatic, etc., at 2 weeks post-positive result, then wait until you feel better. Obtain your booster shot as soon as you feel well enough to do so.

Where can I upload my vaccination data?

Students are required to submit their vaccination proof to Medicat (https://lasell.medicatconnect.com), and employees through PayCom. Both links are also available through MyLasell (https://my.lasell.edu).

Can I get a medical or religious waiver?

The deadline for submitting a request for a medical or religious vaccination waiver for students has passed. If you have a new medical waiver (temporary or long-term) related specifically to the booster shot, you must email Richard Arnold, Director of Health Services (rarnold@lasell.edu). Although no major religion discourages vaccination, religious waivers are considered on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Health Services, the Director of the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion, and the former Director of the Office of Spiritual Life.

Visitors to Campus

What is the policy for campus visitors?

Visitor are allowed on campus. All unvaccinated guests will be expected to wear a mask while indoors, on campus.

Masks

What is the university’s current mask policy?

  • For all vaccinated members of the Lasell community, our campus is now mask optional. 
  • All unvaccinated members of our community are required to wear masks indoors at all times.
  • Masks are optional in all classes. 
    • Faculty have the option to require masks in their individual classes.
    • Students and faculty with approved vaccine exemptions are still required to wear masks inside all buildings, including classrooms.
  • Lasell fully supports all those who choose to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.

Does the university recommend a particular type of mask?

Generally, the highest quality mask you can find is recommended; a well-fitting N95 being the most effective at preventing infection and stopping spread of respiratory illnesses. KN-95s are also highly effective, with surgical masks a distant third, and cloth masks at about 50% efficacy of N95s.

While mask wearing keeps us and others safe and healthy, masks must be worn correctly to be effective. Here are two informational links from the CDC about masks and mask wearing:

Testing

What are the types of COVID-19 tests that Lasell is using?

There are two types of widely used tests: the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and the rapid antigen test (RAT).

The PCR test must be processed in a laboratory and it usually takes 24 hours to get results. This test detects viral RNA and is very sensitive. This means it becomes positive earlier in the disease process when there is very little virus and also stays positive long after the patient has stopped being infectious, because there is still viral RNA in the respiratory secretions. The laboratory that processes Lasell’s PCR tests is the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA.

The RAT, also known as the lateral flow test, can be done at home and detects virus but is less sensitive than the PCR test. A very early infection, when there is only a small amount of virus, would be missed by the RAT, and it’s also likely that the virus load is insufficient to cause the patient to be infectious. Unlike the PCR test, the RAT becomes negative at about the time the patient is no longer infectious. Thus, the RAT is effective at identifying individuals who can spread the disease. For breakthrough infections, the RAT is positive for about five days. In unvaccinated people, positivity could last for about 10 days, but the PCR test would be positive for weeks with both groups.

What do the tests pick up?

COVID-19 Testing Graphic

Source: Antigen Tests and Omicron, by Katelyn Jetelina, January 5, 2022

What is the plan for ongoing surveillance testing?

As of February 19: 

  • All members of our community with an approved vaccine exemption must test once per week and wear masks indoors at all times. 
  • Weekly testing is no longer mandatory for vaccinated students, faculty, and staff.
  • All members of our community who wish to be tested for COVID-19 are welcome and encouraged to visit the testing center.
  • The use of wristbands for weekly testing compliance will be discontinued.

When will the testing site be open?

PCR testing will be done outside of Health Services, like last semester. Testing site hours are Monday through Thursday, 9am–12pm, and 1–4pm.

Isolation and Quarantine

If I test positive either at home or on campus, how long do I need to stay home or in isolation? Is an additional test needed to return to campus or emerge from isolation?

Please refer to the isolation and quarantine protocols. You are welcome to contact Health Services (rarnold@lasell.edu or 617-243-2451) for more information.

If a student is unable to isolate at home, can they isolate at Lasell?

Yes, we will provide accommodations on campus until our capacity to do so is reached.

How will a student be notified where they will be isolating on campus?

Residential Life will email them with a room assignment and further guidance.

What if Lasell runs out of space for students to isolate?

Although we have not approached the capacity of our isolation and quarantine housing over the last three semesters, space is limited. Students should have a backup plan in place to isolate off campus in the event no space is available on campus.

How will it be decided when I can return to campus after a positive COVID test?

The flowchart below provides the decision tree for coming out of isolation and returning to campus after testing positive. Refer also to the full isolation and quarantine protocols

Where will I get a rapid test to determine if I can return after 5 days?

If a student is isolating on campus, Health Services will provide the student with a rapid test. If a student or employee is isolating off campus, we recommend obtaining an at-home test to take on Day 5 (please have a family member or friend obtain one for you; do not leave isolation). If the test is negative, you can return to campus, but must immediately go to Health Services for a confirmatory rapid antigen test.