Welcome to the webcast, we will begin shortly.
LAURIE: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to our first Campus Health
Committee Town Hall. I'm Laurie Lauzon Clabo, dean of College of Nursing. Over the next
couple months we'll be holding these town halls every two weeks with a special focus
on updating members of our campus community on the state of COVID-19, with a special emphasis
on answering your questions regarding the virus, transmission, the current state of
our campus an community, the steps we are taking to provide a safe campus and providing
the science [indiscernible]. I want to introduce the two members of the committee joining us
this week. First is Doctor Paul Kilgore. He is an associate professor in the department
of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences and senior invest gator in the Henry Ford
Health System Global Health Initiative. He is an epidemiologist by training. He's worked
at University of Michigan hospitals, the CBD in Atlanta and International Vaccine Institute
He's focused on infectious disease and vaccine research for the last 27 years.
Next is Doctor Ramona Benkert. She's been a member of the Wayne State community since
1998. She most recently served as the associate dean of Academic and Clinical Affairs in the
College of Nursing. She is also a member of the Campus Health Committee and she also a
practicing adult nurse practitioner with over 33 years of experience working in nurse manage
clinics and clinics for the uninsured. Today we wanted to start by talking about some of
the questions that have arisen as a result of some interim updated guidance issued by
the CDC earlier this week around mask wearing.
There's been a lot of confusion about that
guidance, so we wanted to address those questions head-on and then we are going to move into
questions that folks have submitted in advance for this town hall. So the CDC's guidance
this week has changed what our previous recommendations. And the first is in areas that the CDC ranks
as having substantive or high community transmission, the CDC is now recommending that folks consider
wearing masks indoors in those areas. We are not one of those areas. We are an area of
moderate, not substantial or high transmission, but the campus health committee monitors that
data on a daily basis and we will make changes to our policy that are consistent with conditions
on the ground as well as CDC changing requirements. So we do not require generally, mask — masks
are generally not required indoors, however, members of the campus community, are free,
obviously, to consider wearing a mask if they feel that that offers them additional protection.
Many of us will choose to wear masks when we are in more populated environments on campus
The second is for fully vaccinated people who live with someone who is immuno
compromised or are themselves or may live with someone who is unvaccinated, including
children too young to be vaccinated. The CDC's recommendation for that is now that they may
consider wearing a mask indoors in certain spaces. I'm sure we'll touch on those changes
as we move through the questions submitted for today. But we wanted to give you that
advice upfront. I'm going to take us right into questions
that folks have submitted in advance. I'm going to ask Doctor Kilgore to take a couple
of these. Given the rise in the Delta variant, do you expect so see a surge in fall cases?
How is the Delta variant different from others? DR.
KILGORE: Thank you very much for the opportunity
to be here and thank you to Professor Benkert as well. One of the things I know is there
is a lot of concern. With these questions, let's start right off and the first thing
I will say is that the models that we know are projecting for COVID-19 in the fall show
an increase in transmission. I think folk know already there are 36 states that have
areas of high transmission. There are hot spots already in in states. Thankfully so
far, Michigan has not shown these hot spots like many other states have. That is good
news. On the other hand, we know that the Delta
variant is here in Michigan.
One of the things we know about the Delta variant in particular
is that it has the ability to move from one person to another much more efficiently and
much more quickly than the previous strains that we have had so far in the pandemic. It
is well-adapted now to humans. The changes in the strain, in the virus have been specifically
in areas of the spike protein. And one of the things that we know is that this virus
is much better at attaching to the spike protein receptor, which is the Ace 2 receptor in our
bodies. We know it is prevalent throughout many organ tissues throughout our body, so
the virus now has found a way to attach better than ever before. What that means is that
the vaccines and other things we do to protect ourselves are are as important or maybe more
important than ever before.
Let me take this opportunity to reassure people about the vaccines,
too. The vaccines that we have right now, the Pfizer — the two-dose Pfizer, the Two-dose
Moderna and the J & J vaccine, do work against the variants. I think that is an important
message when we go forward to protect the people who are now not yet vaccinated. If
you haven't been vaccinated already, now is a great opportunity with the school year coming
up and with the chances in the fall that we see better transmission, because one of the
things that we know about respiratory viruses is that as the weather cools, and humidity
decreases, the viruses actually travel through the air much more efficiently than in humid
times. So naturally as people come indoors with cool weather and with lower humidity,
we really start to see the ability of the virus to move very efficiently from one person
to another. What that means is that we need to protect ourselves before we start getting
into the cool-weather season, and particularly when we start coming indoors.
Now is a great
time to be vaccinated. LAURIE: Doctor Kilgore, I'm going to ask you
to hang on for the next question. What advice do you have for Wayne State faculty, staff
and students who parent children under 12? How can we ensure we don't spread the virus
to them, even if we are fully vaccinated? DR. KILGORE: So a couple things that I would
recommend. Number one, if the — if there is any one family member that may be around
the children who are unvaccinated, talk to them about their chances to be vaccinated.
So in some cases, they may — you may have a relative who may be wanting to visit the
family and they may be unvaccinated. If they are unvaccinated and they want to come visit
the family with young children, then first thing I would recommend, of course, is for
them to wear a mask.
That's the first thing. Second thing is to maintain a distance within
the household that would be appropriate. That 6-foot distance would be ideal, plus wearing
a mask. It would be best if they were vaccinated, to if you can encourage them to be vaccinated
that is ideal, too. The second thing is that I would check with the school and make sure
that you know the policies in the school so that you can adhere to them as well as making
sure that the children have all the equipment and supplies they need to protect themselves
when they are in school to reduce the ability of them to be exposed in school. Which I know
many school systems are already working hard on that and have been doing that for many
And then finally, what I would also recommend
is going forward into the fall, for unvaccinated children, if you can avoid large crowds, large
gatherings where there would be children potentially exposed to unvaccinated people as well, that's
ain't environment where I think children can also make sure they are wearing a mask if
they do go out into an environment where they could potentially be exposed in large gatherings,
where people are closer together. LAURIE: And Paul, I'm sure it goes without
saying, that you would support what the CDC said about those folks choosing to wear a
mask in the workplace, to make sure they don't — they are not transmitting the virus when
they go home to an unvaccinated child.
DR. KILGORE: That's right. Absolutely. Especially
if we get into a situation in Michigan where there is levels of high transmission, and
we are tracking that closely. In future town halls I'm sure you're going to hear much more
information about how we move in Michigan in terms of high transmission and spread of
the Delta variant. That is a great point, thank you.
LAURIE: I'm going to direct the next question to Doctor Benkert. As an employee, what are
the Wayne State protocols if I or another employee are either exposed to COVID or test
positive for COVID? Will there be contact tracing or quarantine policy this fall on
campus? DR. BENKERT: We'd ask that you fill out the
campus screener and yes, we will continue our extensive contact tracing and isolation
and quarantine guidelines as directed by the CDC. So yes, we will continue that.
be monitoring the individuals who are in isolation closely, and also monitoring those who are
in quarantine. LAURIE: So — and I think I heard you say
Campus Daily Screener every day you want to be on campus and for folks who are not members
of the Wayne State community visiting our campus, there is now a Guest Daily Screener
and they should be doing that every day as well.
DR. BENKERT: Yes, they should. And I would say your best resource for finding out about
what your positive test means or your exposure means is to do it through the Campus Health
Center. We'd really urge — even though we all try to be helpful, we urge fellow colleagues
and supervisors to try not to make that decision because there are a lot of HIPAA protected
questions we have to go through as we interview and talk to individuals who have a positive
test or they have been exposed, and that's not the recommended purview of both peers
Please contact the Campus Health Center.
LAURIE: Thanks, Doctor Benkert. I'll take the next one. Do you forecast Wayne State
having to scale back operations this fall, where students and employees will have to
return to being remote? What metrics will be used to determine whether the campus needs
to scale back? I think that is a really good question. What
we know is that this — our entire community, the Campus Health Committee monitors the metrics
on campus and in the surrounding community on a daily basis, we summarize them on a weekly
basis. We look at them every Monday morning and we have pre-determined metrics that served
us incredibly well last year and helped us make the decision when it was time to move
a single class remote, or to move all of our classes remote, or to close a lab. And we
are going to continue to be guided by those scientific metrics to keep the emotion out
of our decisions. We make our decisions on the basis of the science. So what I would
say is the campus will act responsibly based on what's happening within our community,
The next question I'm going to ask Paul to
answer. How likely do you think it will be that we'll need a third dose of an mRNA vaccine?
If I was vaccinated in December, am I still protected right now?
DR. KILGORE: That is a great question. One of the things people also recognize is that
right now we are tracking through genomic surveillance, the spreads of the variant.
We do know that there is some decrease in vaccine efficacy overall with the vaccines
that we have now. One of the things I can tell you is that NIH and the manufacturers,
along with FDA are right now, as I speak, creating the dataset to look at the efficacy
of these so-called booster doses. The new vaccine doses that are being created are being
specifically created to actually develop protection. That means IGG neutralizing antibody against
the new variants. When we see new variants arising even as those happen, the new vaccines
are being prepared.
They'll be ready in case our country needs them to be used. One of
the things I can tell you is with the experience of the FDA and committee, the approval process
for these new booster doses, so-called, will be easier and probably faster. The design
of these booster doses or additional vaccine doses is very similar to the vaccines we already
have. It is a matter of changing the mRNA and the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, it means
it is relatively quick to create these new vaccines, which is good news. They are being
tested in people right now, so we'll know about their safety and efficacy. And the good
news is that with the platforms we have already, the vaccines will be very, very similar to
the ones we already have.
Whether or not we need them will be dictated
by the spreads of these variants. Right now in Michigan we are seeing low-level spread
but that could change as the fall comes through and cool weather starts. That will be tracked
carefully. I'm sure what you are going to hear is more discussion about using this third
dose or additional vaccine dose in areas of the country where we start to see high-levels
of Delta variant spread with impact on the health care system, particularly hospitalizations
and deaths and more people developing what we call long-haul COVID, which is a great
concern. And the other thing I wanted to mention is the message today that I wanted to get
across is, if you are unvaccinated or you know people who are, the one concern I can
tell you in addition to them getting very sick, having to go to the ICU or dying, is
this instance where people go into long-haul COVID.
If we can avoid people progressing
on to have chronic symptoms of COVID-19, we will be doing the world a service, and them
a great service because these long-haul COVID symptoms may go on for months or even years
in some cases. We don't know how long it is going to last, but I do worry a lot that many
people who are unvaccinated are really at high-risk for long-haul COVID symptoms.
LAURIE: Thanks for that great answer. I'm going to ask you both to weigh in on the next
question. Maybe I'm ask Doctor Benkert to start and then Doctor Kilgore to adds on.
Recent changes as the science begins to evolve. This question hones in on that. Can vaccinated
people still carry and spread the virus? How worried should vaccinated people be about
the Delta variant? And what does it mean that the CDC changed that guidance for the vaccinated
folks who live with [indiscernible]. What did we know and what do we know now about
whether vaccinated people can still carry and spread the virus? Ramona.
DR. BENKERT: Well, I would say that the data to date, has suggested that it's extremely
unlikely that individuals who are vaccinated would transmit and carry the Delta virus,
although there was a new, unpublished report you may have heard in the news, suggesting
that there may be an ability for the virus to be transmitted or carried by someone who
is fully vaccinated, which is why the CDC changed their guidance with regards to the
masking and — but I would say that the jury is a little still out on that.
If you're concerned
yourself, we always urge you, even if you are fully vaccinated to wear a mask if you
are around others or if you are concerned about exposing individuals in your households,
that you can choose yourself to wear a mask even if you are vaccinated, but I think the
jury still a bit out and we haven't really seen fully published studies yet on this.
Paul, you may have a — DR. KILGORE: No, that was really right on,
Doctor Benkert. That was perfect. I don't have anything to add to that right now.
LAURIE: So this leads us back to the question about, will Wayne State implement a mask mandate.
I'm going to look to my colleagues to ask if I'm correct when I say, we are going to
continue to follow the data on the ground. At the moment our best protection, obviously,
is vaccine. You have heard that from us for a long time.
But for those who desire and
extra layer of protection, or who live with someone who may be vulnerable, choosing to
wear a mask yourself is your best protection. We are not going to mandate that others wear
masks. At Wayne state that is not where we are today. Conditions on the ground change.
That recommendation may change. Anybody — anything to add to that? Paul, Ramona?
DR. BENKERT: I would just add so that the audience is aware, what some of the metrics
are that we track that might change our decisions. I mean, we track not only numbers of cases
at Wayne State, but we also track potential clusters that could happen in part its of
the community, both local as well as our own Wayne State community. We track hospitalization
rates, percent positivity in the region and across the state. We are looking at seven
or eight different metrics each week. The committee reviews the data and makes decisions
as was said, even last year we made decisions — both as the health and wellness officer
and the president with the Health Committee, really made decisions on the data we get each
day so we'll continue to do that.
LAURIE: One of the things that I think is
confusing, early on we said, wear a mask, it protects others. Now we are saying, wear
a mask, it protects you. This is an instance of emerging evidence. Paul, anything to add
to that? DR. KILGORE: One of the things we know from
the last year-and-a-half is masks do reduce transmission. There is no doubt about it.
For many years in other countries where I have worked I have seen people wear a mask
when they had symptoms and that was to reduce their exposure or cough exposing other people.
That's in an instance where there is high levels of virus that you may be shedding.
When you are sick — it could be with COVID-19 or other symptoms, we do shed virus, sometimes
asimilar tomatically. If you are around unvaccinated people, there is a chance you could be exposed,
so wearing a mask, even the case where you are vaccinated, can provide the added layer
of protection that you can then benefit from. One of the things I want to emphasize is that
the vaccines are not perfect. We don't have 100% effective vaccine.
To your point, depending
on your situation, your circumstance, wearing a mask can provide an added layer of benefit.
Does that help? LAURIE: Ramona, will Wayne State consider
mandate ago COVID vaccine for all faculty, staff and students by fall? Why or why not?
DR. BENKERT: Certainly what we have seen in the recent surveys that were conducted, we
have had a good uptake of the vaccine from faculty and staff and so what we are hoping
is that we'll continua to see an uptake. We are not completely ruling it out, but at this
point we are not mandating that and we'll watch, again, similar to our metrics. We'll
watch to see how the vaccination status rates change as the semester progresses.
LAURIE: And I would just emphasize how encouraged we are by those survey results and seeing
the high-level of vaccine uptake in our community.
Ramona, while I have you, I want to ask you
one more question. What exemptions are available to the housing vaccine mandate? There is a
targeted mandate for residents who are live in campus housing because of the increased
risk of that close living situation. What exemption is available to me if I'm unable
to get one of the vaccines, or if I'm unwilling to get the vaccine?
DR. BENKERT: Well, there really are two exemptions. One is medical and one is religious exemption.
We are not really allowing a person to exempt themselves just because they are unwilling.
And what's been — what we are using primarily as the medical exemption is based on the data
we know from the vaccines, and that is really the major contraindication, which is a previous,
serious reaction to a vaccine, but what we will be doing — and also, we may be having
people fill out declination forms that they get signed by a provider or religious leader,
but they will be reviewed by the campus health committee to determine whether the exemption
qualifies for what we recommend.
LAURIE: And if I'm exempted and I live in
campus housing, what can I expect? DR. BENKERT: Well, you can live in housing.
What we'd recommend is that if you are not living in a single dwelling by yourself, that
you really have a conversation with your roommate because we certainly wouldn't want to have
any harm come to, particularly, immunocompromised roommate and we suggest you wear a mask until
you and your roommate have had the conversation.
And certainly, masking and — same thing we
have always been recommending. Masking, good social hygiene, good hand washing. Those are
all the things we are still continuing to recommend.
LAURIE: And testing. DR. BENKERT: And testing. Yes, so for those
who are allowed to have an exemption, they will be required to have weekly testing through
the options that are available here on campus because we do need to keep close tabs, based
on our metrics — we need to keep close tabs on any potential positive cases that could
arise, which, again, knowing the data, it is more likely if you are unvaccinated.
LAURIE: So I can't believe how quickly 30 minutes goes by. We touched on I think each
of the sort of major themes of questions, but we know there are questions that we have
yet to answer, so we will, again, a subset of the committee will be back again in two
weeks to answer more questions.
I would encourage you to watch for an announcement of the next
town hall and please submit your questions in advance, so that we can get the appropriate
experts from the committee available to answer those. Couple of updates we want to just make
sure folks are aware of. So as of today, there is a current campus status posted on the Wayne.edu/coronavirus
website. And that status is a really short, bulleted list of campus requirements today.
So it lists — what are our mask requirements. What are vaccine requirements? What about
social distancing? And we'll be updating those very short bullets, very frequently, so that
you can have easy access to brief, current information.
The next is, lots of people are asking health questions and bringing them to their supervisors
or to their HR consultants.
We want to give you a one-stop-shopping place for asking campus
health policy questions. There is a new e-mail address, live today, that is healthcommittee@Wayne.edu.
If you have a question about the vaccine, the virus, campus health policy, please submit
your question to that e-mail address and members of the campus health committee will answer
it. If you have a specific clinical question, that relates to you and your health situation,
we obviously encourage you to have that discussion with your own primary care provider, or to
contact our professional staff at the campus health center. I also want to tell you that
this video will be e-mailed out on Friday, along with a link to the health committee
at Wayne.edumailbox, contact information, and to let you know that we are your safe
training, which many of you completed last year before returning to campus in September
has been updated with current data and undergirded by the current science and what we know about
COVID. That will — what's called Stay Warrior Safe Training will go live likely early next
Also I want to make sure you're aware of and following the messages from the president
and housing and others, about the Warrior Summer Vaccine Incentive for faculty, staff
and students. An opportunity to upload your vaccine — proof of vaccination to be entered
in a raffle for significant prizes. And so here is your opportunity to take advantage
of being a good citizen, getting your vaccination and then being eligible to win some prizes.
I want to thank everyone who joined us today. I want to thank you for submitting your questions.
The members of the committee love getting your questions and being able to responds
to them based on their expertise. And I mostly also want to thank Doctor Kilgore and Doctor
Benkert for being our guinea pigs on our inaugural campus health committee town hall, and we'll
be back to see you again in two weeks.
Thanks again, everyone. Enjoy the rest of your week.
Don't forget to send us questions if you have them. Thank you.