Updated information on COVID-19 (and monkeypox)

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, Campus Public Health Officer

So you're back (or here for the first time) and you have questions about staying healthy. The Campus Public Health Officer is here to (hopefully) give you helpful information about current recommendations and University policy. Let's go!

Do we still have to worry about COVID-19?

Yes. Vaccination/boosters and previous infection do not prevent infection/reinfection with the current Omicron variants.

Have COVID-19 recommendations changed since last spring?

Yes. Both the CDC and FDA updated their guidance on August 11.

  1. Keep your vaccinations and booster shots up to date to help prevent severe illness. 
    • The University still requires proof of vaccination or a religious/medical exemption.
    • New boosters, expected to be available later this year, will offer protection against the Omicron variants.
  2. Exposed to COVID-19? Wear a high-quality mask for 10 days. Get tested on day 5.
  3. Feel sick? Boynton Health provides PCR testing with no out-of-pocket cost to University students, staff, and faculty at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, located on the East Bank of the Twin Cities campus. Testing is also available three days a week on the St. Paul Campus. More information on testing locations near you can be found hereAt home rapid test kits are available for pick up at both test site locations. 
  4. Test positive? Use the CDC Quarantine and Isolation Calculator (currently being updated) to determine how long you need to isolate from others. Recommendations are more detailed than before.
  5. Masking is still important. If you need to protect yourself; if you have been exposed to or are recovering from COVID-19; or if you are in a building on campus where healthcare is provided; make sure you are correctly wearing a well-fitted high-quality mask (cloth and surgical masks do not provide adequate protection). 
    • Free masks are available for students on request at all University residence halls and apartments, and at Rec Well, Boynton Clinic, and Student Unions in the Twin Cities.
    • Units can order masks through UMarket.
  6. Be aware of the level of infection risk in your community and where you travel. Increase precautions where the level is high.

Do we need to worry about getting monkeypox?

Since monkeypox is still quite rare and not transmitted as easily as COVID-19, the risk of infection remains low for most people. For this to remain true, we need to educate ourselves on how it can be spread:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs or body fluids. This means skin to skin contact like dancing, kissing, contact sports, cuddling, and sex (condoms alone do not provide adequate protection from this virus).
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex.
  • Touching items, such as clothing or linens, that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids.
  • The placenta of pregnant people to their fetus.

Prevent the spread of monkeypox by avoiding these forms of contact; not sharing objects, clothing, bedding, or towels; and by cleaning your hands often.

What should I do if I think I have been in contact with someone with monkeypox or have symptoms?

  • Contact your healthcare provider or clinic immediately for advice, testing, and medical care.
  • Until you receive your test result, isolate yourself from others if possible.
  • Clean your hands regularly.

Should I get vaccinated for monkeypox?

Your healthcare provider can advise you based on your health history.


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