April 17, 2023
Dear CUNY community,
I hope you had a restful spring recess. I’m happy to welcome you back with news of a major milestone in CUNY’s three-year battle against COVID-19. In the wake of significant improvements in New York City and State and across the nation, we are ending the emergency vaccination mandate for students, faculty and staff. The change will be effective on the last day of the Spring semester and will allow students to enroll in classes, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, starting with Summer sessions.
Our decision to lift the vaccine mandate is consistent with the federal government’s plan to end the national Public Health Emergency next month. It comes after close consultation with State and City health officials, and amid increased rates of vaccination and sustained low COVID-19 levels on CUNY campuses and throughout the city. Our testing program reports a positivity rate of 0.8% for the week ending April 9, mirroring the city and state’s declining rates of infection.
To be sure, it’s important to recognize that the pandemic is not over; we continue to encourage and urge all students, faculty and staff to stay up to date with vaccinations. We will also continue to consult with public health experts, closely monitor data and adhere to pertinent federal, state and city guidance should policies need to be modified moving forward.
The mandate will end on May 23 for the 22 CUNY colleges whose spring semesters end that day, and for all Central Office employees. For Kingsborough, LaGuardia and Guttman community colleges, whose semesters operate on a different calendar, the mandate will end on June 16, the last day of their current term.
By the end of June, we will also be ending our COVID-19 testing program, closing our campus and Central Office test sites and eliminating the use of the Cleared4 health verification platform, allowing colleges to go back to their standard processes for granting campus access.
I want to thank all members of the CUNY community for their cooperation and compliance with the vaccination mandate since it went into effect in Fall 2021. We can all take pride that we are able to reach this milestone in great part because of our high levels of vaccination.
I also thank the many members of our community who have made important contributions to our University’ response to the pandemic throughout these challenging years. I want to especially recognize the leadership of our School of Public Health and Health Policy; the Campus Coronavirus Liaisons and Campus Location Vaccine Authority (LVAs) who ensured that state and local health guidance as well as CUNY policy were followed throughout the university; the Office of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management, which oversaw operations for our testing sites, and our essential staff – public safety officers, custodians, facilities staff and others – who worked in person through it all to manage access to our facilities and keep us safe.
From the initial onset of COVID-19, in March 2020, our University community has risen to overcome unprecedented challenges to every aspect of life during the pandemic in work, school and our homes. When the vaccines became available in December 2020, it was a two-time CUNY alumnus who made history as the first in the country to get the shot. In March 2021, we launched the #VaxUpCUNY campaign and worked with our government partners to host vaccination sites that put over half a million shots in New Yorkers’ arms. Faculty, meanwhile, conducted COVID-focused research and developed COVID-related courses. Nursing and med students joined the frontlines, and students rallied to help despite personal losses. Our community suffered devastating losses of life during the pandemic and we were the first university to launch an In Memoriam webpage to honor them.
These indelible images and memories remain fresh enough for us to take stock of the great distance we’ve covered, working together to keep CUNY moving forward. We are hopeful that the positive trends will continue and that we are moving steadily toward a time when COVID-19 is no longer a serious health concern for anyone. We continue to prioritize the health and well-being of our community.
Thank you again for doing your part to help CUNY persevere through the pandemic. Please stay healthy and have a successful last month of the academic year.
Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Ph.D.