Hospitals across the region are facing pandemic-high emergency COVID-19 case rates as Salisbury University’s spring semester is on the horizon.
TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, Salisbury’s largest healthcare facility, has reached a hospital capacity of 108% and entered a crisis standard of care amid staffing shortages and record-setting volumes in its emergency department, Vice President of Population Health Kathryn Fiddler said.
TidalHealth has seen an increase of over 300% in COVID-19 admissions since Dec. 1 and “occupancy levels never seen before coupled with tremendous lengths of stay,” according to a recent press release by the organization.
“Our hospitals need large institutions like Salisbury University to do everything possible to keep the people that they bring to our community safe and out of the hospital,” Fiddler said.
“This is a path we must take to protect the public health,” SU President Charles Wight said during his COVID-19 briefing Thursday. “[SU’s] guiding principles during this pandemic have been to protect lives, to protect jobs and to protect educational quality … [which] includes remaining open, but only if we can do so safely.”
In addition to the booster requirement, SU has also mandated a COVID-19 return test for all university members upon their arrival to campus and will extend its face mask mandate inside all university facilities while requiring KN95 masks in classrooms and instructional settings.
“We recognize that without requiring boosters when eligible we could anticipate even more disruptions to our instructional activities both for individual students and for the campus as a whole,” said Karen Olmstead, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “We want to remain open and in-person, and it was clear that these protocols will give us the best chance.”
Free KN95 masks are available for SU students, faculty and staff to pick up in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall every weekday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., as well as the Guerrieri Student Union Information Desk beginning Monday.
Campus community members will be limited to 10 free KN95 masks per person, though more will become available during the spring semester, Chief of Staff Eli Modlin said.
SU will no longer offer take-home COVID-19 tests following the federal government’s recent purchase of 500 million tests to distribute nationwide for free.
Nonexempt students must also submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots to the SU COVID-19 Vaccination Portal before spring classes commence, including those who previously completed the university’s COVID-19 Information Consent Form.
The university is expected to begin the spring semester with fully in-person operations Jan. 31.
For more information on SU’s vaccination protocols or to view the latest university COVID-19 test results, visit https://www.salisbury.edu/coronavirus/testing-info.aspx.
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image courtesy of Ben Lausch.