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FAQs

Table of Contents

Additional answers will be posted and updated as information is confirmed and available.

Academics 

What classroom protocols will be in place for Summer 2021?
Summer classroom protocols for all students, regardless of vaccination status, will be the same as protocols for the 2020-21 academic year and include six-feet social distancing, mask wearing, and comprehensive cleaning protocols.

What is the difference between hybrid and flex courses?CC-COM-Digital-Slide_Four-Class-Formats-Messages-1920x1080-2020.jpg
A hybrid course has in-person components and remote components that are required for all students. For this course, a student would have to be living on-campus to attend all components.

A flex course can be taken completely remotely, but there are some optional in-person components for students to participate in. Because the in-person components are optional, students are not required to be on campus.

What kind of technology will be required to participate in distance learning? Is there a provision for low-income students who might not have access to what's needed?
CC students will need access to a computer with connectivity to the internet so they can use Canvas and the materials that faculty post there.

  • Computers: Students who do not have access to a laptop and demonstrate financial need can request a loaner computer from the college.
  • Internet connectivity: Students who do not have access to high-speed internet at home can use their CC login credentials at any college campus that also uses Eduroam. There are locations all over the United States and select locations outside of the U.S. View the list of active Eduroam sites near you.

How do I obtain my books for classes if I’ve chosen to distance learn?
Students may order their books online via the CC Bookstore. Ground shipping is free for orders over $25.

How will students with learning disabilities be accommodated with distance learning?
Students concerned about the accessibility of distance learning for those with learning disabilities can reach out to Director of Accessibility Resources Jan Edwards at jedwards@coloradocollege.edu or by calling (719) 227-8294. Edwards will be working with faculty to adjust academic accommodations as needed.

Students, if they have not already done so, should submit requests for faculty notification regarding accessibility per the usual process. The Accessibility Resources staff will be available via phone and email.

Tuition/Financial Aid

View the FAQs that the Student Accounts Office has developed for more information. 

Student Life 

Will off-campus students have access to on-campus resources?
Students living off campus do have access to campus. We are including students living off campus in our COVID-19 testing and tracing protocols as long as they have registered their Colorado Springs address with us. All students residing in Colorado Springs who are enrolled in classes will have access to our services at the Student Health Center. Additionally, the off-campus RLC, Luis Valdez, will provide support for students living off-campus. Please see our Facilities Operations and Closures for hours of operation and safety measures. Off-campus students will have access to campus buildings and classes after they successfully complete:

  • testing
  • an online module on virus protocols
  • a spring living survey 

Risk Mitigation

What protocols have been put in place to mitigate risk?
Read more about our risk-mitigation protocols.

What are the arrival protocols for students coming to campus in Summer 2021?
All newly arriving students living on campus or locally off campus must:

  • Take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and participate in weekly COVID testing for as long as they are in Colorado Springs.
  • Fully vaccinated students may submit proof of vaccination and do NOT need to observe a period of enhanced social distancing upon arrival. They must follow all campus COVID-19 protocols.
    • The college will accept proof of all vaccines that have gone through an approval process in any country.
  • Students who are not fully vaccinated at the time of arrival must follow enhanced social distancing protocols for seven days and should schedule their first weekly test on day seven after arrival.
    • Students who newly arrive for a Block A class with in-person components and are not fully vaccinated must arrive by May 26.
    • Students newly arriving for Block B, must arrive by June 21.
    • Students newly arriving for Block C must arrive by July 19.
  • This timeline allows for the seven-day enhanced social distancing and testing period prior to beginning in-person classes.
  • Students may contact the Student Health Center to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
  • One visitor may accompany students for on-campus move-in.

What policies are in place regarding college-related travel?
At this time, most college-related travel, both international and domestic, is prohibited until further notice and should not be planned or scheduled. College-related travel will be approved on a petition basis only. Learn more about the travel policy and petition process.

Travel Protocols Starting June 1
Travel is still discouraged until higher vaccination rates are achieved. Those who do travel should follow this guidance: travel policy and petition process.

How long must I quarantine if I travel outside El Paso County?
Travel outside of the county requires a seven-day quarantine for employees, and a 10-day quarantine for students. This is stated in the CC COVID-19 Travel Policy.

Is Colorado College doing contact tracing?
Colorado College is collaborating with our partners at El Paso County Health, and we have identified a lead contact tracer, a CC staff member, in charge of making sure that rapid contact tracing is happening. We also have a team of 15-20 people trained to do contact tracing, both through the Johns Hopkins tracing training and our local public health department.

A positive test will immediately trigger the contact tracing process. Anyone who receives a positive test will go into isolation for at least 10 days. If at the 10‑day mark their symptoms have resolved, they could be cleared to leave isolation. If they still have symptoms, they stay in isolation until the symptoms have cleared and they've been released to return to school or work by the public health department or by their medical provider.

Being on a college campus enables rapid contact tracing because we will be placing students into cohorts. All students will identify 10 or so people they spend time with, and they will not be spending time with individuals outside of their cohort. Within the cohort system, we will be able to immediately identify and reach out to people who might have been exposed to a positive case. All the individuals would go into quarantine that lasts for 10 days from the last date of exposure (or 14 days in the case of viral variants).

What is the point of contact tracing?
Contact tracing consists of identifying as many people as possible who have had close contact with known infected individuals. This allows the college to identify individuals who have a relatively higher chance of having been infected, even though they may not display symptoms. Contact tracing is an essential tool in controlling the spread of infectious diseases, by directing interventions and resources to those individuals who are at higher risk of having been infected.

How will we inform the community about positive tests if someone is in that contact tracing circle? What information will they receive?_CC-COM-DigitalSlide-NoTroubleTesting-2020.jpg
From the contact tracing standpoint, that positive test result is HIPAA protected. Contact tracers will not divulge the personal information of an individual. Information disclosed will be general (i.e. "in the past couple of days you have had contact with someone who tested positive"). We're committed to maintaining the privacy of our community members.

Are visitors allowed on campus?

Visitor Protocols Starting June 1
Following domestic travel, fully vaccinated visitors may submit proof of vaccination to and need not quarantine or test upon arrival. They must follow all campus COVID-19 protocols.

Following international travel, fully vaccinated visitors should follow CDC guidance and test three to five days after travel.

Day visitors who are not fully vaccinated should test upon arrival. Visitors who are not fully vaccinated and have prolonged interaction with the CC community should test upon arrival, quarantine for seven days, and re-test on day seven.

All visitors who travel to the CC campus must follow CDC travel guidance.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccine information from the State of Colorado

Will vaccinations be required for the Colorado College community?
Colorado College will require all students, faculty, and staff who are learning,  living, working on or accessing campus for the 2021-22 academic year to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. CC students, faculty, and staff will be most protected from COVID-19 if everyone is vaccinated. All members of the campus community will be required to provide proof of vaccination or exemption by Aug. 1. The college will accept proof of  all vaccines that have gone through an approval process in any country. More information on the process will be provided soon. We will consider requests for exemptions for medical, religious, and personal reasons. Details on how to request an exemption will be provided soon. CC relies upon science, data, its Scientific Advisory Group, and its national medical consultants to advise on our action plan for COVID protocols, testing, and vaccination to keep the campus community safe.

When is the second vaccine clinic?
CC will host the second on-campus COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Saturday, May 8, 8 a.m.-noon at Cornerstone Arts Center. This clinic will be open to CC campus community members, their families, and members of the broader community. Appointments can be made at this link. This clinic is an option for those who need their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, or those who need their first dose. Email msantos@coloradocollege.edu if you have questions. See this list for other locations in El Paso County.

What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

What happens when you’re infected with the coronavirus?
The coronavirus attaches itself to cells, such as those in the respiratory tract, via the spike proteins on its surface. This allows the virus’ genetic material to enter and infect the cell. Viral genetic material contains instructions for creating more viral parts, both additional genetic material and proteins that make up the outer “shell” of the virus, including the spike protein and other proteins. These parts are then assembled to make up new virus particles. One infected cell can produce thousands of copies of the virus that can infect other cells, and the cycle starts again. An excellent visualization of this process can be found here: LA Times – How Coronaviruses Replicate Inside You.

If a student receives the first dose of the vaccine in another state, can they receive their second dose in Colorado?
Yes. Students will need to contact Maggie Santos directly with information about their first vaccine dose. She will help students coordinate with UC Health to administer the second dose.

Are the vaccines safe?
Yes. Why? In clinical trials, the vaccines were tested in tens of thousands of volunteers across different races, ethnicities, and ages, and there were no serious safety concerns. The most common side effects were pain at the injection site and symptoms including fever. Many of these side effects are evidence of the immune system responding to the vaccine.

No vaccine is completely free of side effects. However, as with all vaccines, the risk of a more serious complication, such as an allergic reaction, to a COVID-19 vaccine is far lower than the risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. As these are new vaccines, we’re likely to hear news reports about rare events. For example, you may have heard that some individuals had severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to the vaccine; current estimates are that these happen in about 1 in 100,000 doses. For comparison, the antibiotic penicillin causes severe allergic reactions in 1 in 5,000 doses.

Are the vaccines effective?
Yes! As we’ve stated in answers to previous FAQs: All the vaccines are incredibly efficacious in protecting recipients from severe COVID, hospitalization, and death. (A small note: efficacy is measured during the clinical trials, and effectiveness is measured by surveillance studies after vaccines are given to a population.) 

The Moderna (94% efficacy), Pfizer-BioNTech (95% efficacy), and Johnson & Johnson (66% efficacy worldwide, 72% in the US) vaccines reported different efficacy in their clinical trials. All of these are well above the FDA’s threshold of at least 50% efficacy.  (Here’s more on how vaccine efficacy is measured.)

However, it is difficult to directly compare the efficacy of vaccines for a number of reasons. First, as each clinical trial was completed with a large number of volunteers, and not the general public, each of these numbers represent an estimate of efficacy and don’t show the confidence interval, or range of possibilities. Second, the vaccines were tested on different groups of people at different stages of the pandemic. All vaccines tested in the presence of the widespread B.1.351 variant (e.g. Johnson & Johnson and Novavax (South Africa)) had lower efficacy than those tested without the presence of widespread B.1.351 variant (e.g. Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech). Third, each trial measured efficacy in slightly different ways.  For example, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson measured efficacy at different timepoints – 14 days after the second dose and 28 days after a single dose, respectively. (Last updated 3/19/21)

Why aren't cases of COVID-19 dropping significantly in El Paso County (or Colorado), given that some people have been vaccinated?
The short answer is that we don’t know, and we probably won’t without a retrospective study.  However, there are a several factors that might be contributing to this, some of which we describe below.  

There are still enough people in the county who are susceptible to infection, including people who are not yet vaccinated or do not have immunity from prior infection.  Another way to describe this is that we have yet to achieve herd immunity (see our previous FAQ “What is herd immunity? How and when is it achieved?”).  As of March 19, 2021, 17.9% of the El Paso County population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 10.9% are fully vaccinated

Some other potential contributing factors to the plateau: First, young people are currently driving the spread (scroll to slide 11) and, in general, younger people are in the last phase to be vaccinated.  Second, the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant now accounts for 8-10% of samples tested each week by genomic surveillance in Colorado.  Finally, we’ve been at this pandemic business for over a year now and let’s face it – it’s been a really hard year and people are experiencing pandemic fatigue. Plus, the weather is just starting to get warm enough to gather outdoors (lower risk) as opposed to indoors. (Last updated 3/19/21)

What is mRNA and how is it different from DNA?
Both messenger RNA (mRNA) and DNA contain instructions to make proteins. Your genetic information is stored as DNA in the nucleus of your cell. When protein needs to be made, DNA is transcribed into mRNA by an awesome molecular machine called RNA polymerase.

You can think of this process of transcription (see figure) as visiting a text in a library archive. You might not be able to remove the text from the archive, but you can copy the words into your notes to take with you. In this case, the archival text is DNA and the copy you take with you is mRNA.  

mRNA then leaves the nucleus to find another awesome molecular machine known as a ribosome in the cytoplasm. Ribosomes translate the mRNA into protein.

In our analogy, the process of translation (see figure) would be similar to translating the copy you took with you in the archives from the language in the archival text (nucleic acids – DNA or mRNA) to another language (protein). 

Can I get infected with the Coronavirus after I’ve been vaccinated?
It’s possible to still get infected with the coronavirus, however, it is extremely unlikely that someone who is fully vaccinated will experience more than mild symptoms or would have to be hospitalized. In this way, the COVID-19 vaccines are similar to the flu vaccine. For example, the immune system takes time to mount an adaptive response and no individuals receiving the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the clinical study required hospitalization 28 days after vaccination (Table 18 in the FDA Briefing).

Because it is possible that vaccinated people may still carry and potentially spread the coronavirus to people who have not yet had the vaccine, it is important to continue social distancing, mask wearing, and handwashing protocols for the time being. Evidence is emerging that the vaccines reduce or prevent spread of the virus. Scientists are still working to collect enough data to confirm that the vaccines we use today protect against both disease and transmission.

How do mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 work?
To understand this, we need to talk a little bit first about how your body responds to a viral infection. To produce protective immunity – such as antibodies – against a virus, your body recognizes viral proteins known as antigens. Antigens, like the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, are often found on the surface of the virus and are how the virus infects cells. Your immune system encounters antigens either by being infected with the virus itself or by encountering viral protein(s) in the form of a vaccine. When you’re infected with a virus like SARS-CoV-2, your cells encounter not only existing viral proteins, but also the instructions to make more viral proteins and to make more virus; when your cells read these instructions, the new virus you produce can infect other cells in your body or be shed to infect others.

The current vaccines available in the United States – Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna - are both mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 work by providing your cells with the instructions to make only the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and not make more virus. Thus, you cannot become infected with SARS-CoV-2 if you receive an mRNA vaccine. Your cells have the machinery to read these mRNA instructions and make spike proteins that your immune system will recognize, respond to, and remember if you see them again in the form of the actual virus. Vaccines prepare our immune system to respond to future encounters of the virus.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Why is the timing between your first and second shot dependent on which mRNA vaccine you received? 
This all boils down to study design during the clinical trials. In the Pfizer/BioNTech trials, the doses were given to participants 21 days apart. In the Moderna trials, the doses were given to participants 28 days apart. The FDA uses this clinical trial data to examine the vaccine’s safety and efficacy and to outline the conditions the vaccine can be used. Sometimes this timing isn’t possible, so the CDC updated its guidance in January 2021 to reflect that the second dose can be scheduled up to 6 weeks after the first dose.  Your local CC immunologist, Dr. Olivia Hatton, agrees with Dr. Paul Sax, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an infectious disease specialist,  here: “there is no biological reason why receiving the second dose late would diminish the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

How do the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines work? Do they work the same as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines?
If you recall our answer to “How do mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 work,” your immune system must encounter viral proteins to mount a protective immune response. All vaccine strategies aim to introduce you to viral proteins without introducing you to live virus or instructions to make live virus, so you can’t get infected by the vaccines themselves.  None of the vaccine strategies do this by changing your DNA.

The Novavax vaccine introduces viral proteins most directly by giving you the coronavirus spike protein itself; it is an example of a protein subunit vaccine (see figure).  The vaccine also contains something called an adjuvant, which makes your immune system take notice of this protein and mount a response.  Some common protein subunit vaccines include the hepatitis B vaccine and the whooping cough vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines send in instructions in the form of mRNA; these are examples of mRNA vaccines (see figure). The mRNA is packaged in a lipid particle so that the mRNA can enter into your cells and be translated by your ribosomes to make the coronavirus spike protein. While these are first FDA-approved mRNA vaccines, the basic science and technology of mRNA vaccines has been in development by scientists for decades prior to the current pandemic.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine send in instructions in the form of DNA.  To deliver DNA to cells, the DNA containing instructions for the coronavirus spike protein is packaged in a different harmless virus that cannot replicate; thus, it is an example of a viral vector vaccine (see figure).  The Ebola vaccine is also a viral vector vaccine. The vaccines cannot cause infection with either COVID-19 or the harmless virus that helps deliver DNA to your cells. 

For more information, check out the following resources:

Do I still need to wear a mask, socially distance, wash my hands frequently, and avoid crowds after getting the vaccine?
Yes. Why? First, if you’ve been vaccinated, it takes a while for the vaccines to work. For example, in the Moderna trials, 94% efficacy was reached in their study population two weeks after the second dose, which is about a month and a half after the first dose. (The first dose provided protection in 51% of the study population two weeks after it was administered. The results for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were similar.)

Second, to be approved for use, vaccine makers were asked to assess whether the vaccine prevented individuals from developing COVID-19 symptoms, not from spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others. This means that someone who is vaccinated could be infected and contagious, but not show any symptoms. There is very encouraging preliminary data that the vaccines do prevent spread of the virus, but scientists are still working to collect enough data to be confident.

To sustain practices critical to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 – social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing – those who have been vaccinated should plan to continue these practices in public, educational, and other group settings until herd immunity or substantially lower levels of COVID-19 in the community are reached. Here’s more from NPR.

If I’m vaccinated and I get tested, will my test come back positive? 
No. The tests that CC uses detect parts of the viral genome — the instructions to make more virus. As we mentioned in “Can I catch COVID-19 from receiving the vaccine?,” all of the currently available vaccines only deliver instructions to make one small piece of the virus; they don’t contain the full viral genome. Thus, the vaccines don’t contain the parts of the virus that the tests detect.

With a vaccine, people will still have to quarantine if they were exposed?
Vaccinated CC community members are required to quarantine if they were exposed. There is not yet conclusive evidence that vaccinated people cannot carry and spread the Coronavirus. When scientific evidence is available, we will re-evaluate the policy. 

 If they have been positive within 90 days, they still have to quarantine if they were exposed. CC community members who received a positive test result within 90 days must quarantine following a new exposure. The strength of the immune response varies widely from person to person, and it is unknown to what extent people who recovered from Covid-19 can still carry and spread the coronavirus. Additionally, there are new coronavirus variants circulating in the U.S., and reinfections with new variants have been documented in other parts of the world. It is therefore particularly important that quarantine requirements remain in place at this time, even for those who have previously recovered from COVID-19. 

If I’m a student who has received the vaccine, do I still need to be included in CC’s testing program?
Yes. Why? As described above, we don’t have enough data yet to be confident that individuals who are vaccinated can’t spread the virus to others. Our best tools are the ones we’ve been using thus far, including testing our population and quarantining individuals who test positive to prevent the spread of the virus.

Should I receive the vaccine if I’ve recovered from COVID-19?
Yes. First off, it’s wonderful to hear you’ve recovered! Second, we don’t know how long protection from infection lasts. Re-infection is possible (though rare within 90 days after recovery). Finally, from the clinical trials we know that the vaccines are safe and effective in individuals who had evidence of prior infection.

What is herd immunity? How and when is it achieved?
Herd immunity is achieved when enough people in a population are immune so that one infected person spreads the virus to, on average, less than one person. This means that a virus can’t spread as easily in a population because it keeps on encountering people that are protected against infection. Because this phenomenon reduces the risk that vulnerable people will come into contact with the virus rather than have immunity to the virus, many scientists prefer the term herd protection; this is the term we will use below.

For example, measles is a highly infectious virus; the average infected person spreads the virus to 12-18 people.  To achieve herd protection for measles, 92-94% of the population needs to have immunity to measles (1-1/12 = 0.92 or 92% and 1-1/18 = 0.94 or 94%). 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is much less infectious than measles; current estimates suggest that the average infected person spreads the virus to 2.5-4 people.  To achieve herd protection for SARS-CoV-2, 60-75% of the populations needs to have immunity (1-1/2.5 = 0.6 or 60% and 1-1/4 = 0.75 or 75%). When there are variants that spread more easily, a greater percent of the population needs to be immune to achieve herd protection. As conditions and populations can change, these estimates are best thought of as a gradient, rather than a hard and fast number; the higher the percent of the population that is vaccinated, the better. 

As the risk of a serious complication to a COVID-19 vaccine is far lower than the risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, vaccinations are the best way to achieve herd protection.

Moreover, risk mitigation protocols like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing also reduce the spread of the virus and support herd protection. Therefore, continued use of these practices may vastly accelerate progress to a “new normal” than reliance on vaccination alone.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Why are the new variants more contagious?
Scientists are still working on the answer to this question, but the best evidence we have so far centers on changes to the spike protein of the virus. The spike protein is found on the outside of the virus and is how it infects your cells. The variants all contain a common change in the spike protein that makes them better at binding to the receptor they use to infect cells; this increases the ability of the variants to infect people.

Great news #1: You may have heard that the different vaccines have different efficacy compared to each other and in relation to the different viral variants. There are some differences between the trials that might explain these differences, such as the number of vaccine doses given, which variants were present when the clinical trials were ongoing, and how efficacy is measured. However, let’s focus on what the Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines share: of the thousands of people in each clinical trial, all the vaccines are incredibly effective in protecting recipients from hospitalization and death. For example, none of the 30 cases of severe disease in the Moderna trial received the vaccine, and only one of the 10 cases of severe disease in the Pfizer-BioNTech trial received the vaccine; there were no deaths in the vaccine-recipient groups in either trial.

Great news #2: Our tools to help us mitigate risk are still the same: wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands regularly.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Will the vaccine protect me against the new variants of SARS-CoV-2?
Let’s start by addressing the most important part of this question: how do these new variants of SARS-CoV-2 change our behavior?  Put simply, the emergence of these new variants emphasizes the importance of mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand washing as well as getting your vaccine as soon as possible. All viruses mutate, but this only happens when they’re in a host. Thus, if we reduce the spread of the virus and prevent the virus from infecting additional people, we also reduce the opportunities for it to mutate.

To more directly answer the question, scientists are currently looking at whether antibodies generated by vaccinated individuals can recognize the new viral variants; this is going to be an ongoing effort in the scientific community. As of January 21, 2021, the current evidence suggests that the vaccines do protect against new variants of SARS-CoV-2, with some caveats. In a preliminary study, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine elicited antibodies that could recognize a mutation found in the variants that arose in the UK and South Africa – this is encouraging news! In another preliminary study, vaccine-elicited antibodies were less effective at blocking the other new viral variants; another group found a similar result looking at antibodies from individuals who had recovered from infection. Here’s the silver-lining: the effectiveness of these antibodies was reduced, not eliminated – they could still prevent virus from infecting cells. Moreover, antibodies are only one component of the immune response to vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 infection. Thus, it is still critical to get vaccinated as soon as possible and continue to wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands.

For more information, check out the following resources:

What kinds of side effects are “normal,” and are there any I should be worried about?
The most common side effects seen with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine are pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, muscle aches, and headache. In general, these are most likely to occur after the second dose and are more common in younger vaccine recipients. According to the New England Journal of Medicine FAQ site, they also typically only last a couple of days. If you receive the vaccine and experience these symptoms, talk with your health-care provider about how to manage them, but be encouraged that these are a sign that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

Severe allergic reactions (also known as anaphylaxis) are the main serious side effect seen after vaccination, but they’re still very rare events: Based on current data, they occur at a rate of 1 in 100,000 doses. These severe allergic reactions arise pretty quickly, and we know how to treat them. Therefore, as a precaution, anyone receiving the vaccine is required to be observed for at least 15 minutes after vaccination; people with a history of severe allergic reactions of any kind are observed for 30 minutes. More information can be found on the CDC website. 

Most adverse events from vaccines arise within a short time after vaccines are given; in general, the majority of side effects occur within hours, with more rare side effects generally beginning within six weeks of receiving a vaccine.  The approval process for vaccines takes this timeframe into account, requiring an average of at least two months of follow-up after completion of vaccination. This allows vaccine developers to gather enough information to ensure that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any identified risks.

I have heard that side-effects of the vaccine are more prevalent in younger people who are getting the vaccine and not as prevalent in older populations. Is this true, and if so why? 
Yes. As we answered in “What kind of side effects are ‘normal,’ and are there any I should be worried about?”, these side effects, which are also known as vaccine reactogenicity, are more prevalent in younger individuals and after the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines; you can explore the data using the links provided. For example, 17.4% of individuals 18-64 and 10.2% of individuals 65 or older experienced a fever after their second dose of the Moderna vaccine; in both age groups fewer than 1% of individuals experienced a fever after their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. 

As to why, this is a question that is actively being studied. As we describe in “Can I catch COVID-19 from receiving the vaccine?,” many of the side-effects one might feel of the vaccine (or the symptoms one might experience when infected) are a consequence of your immune response to the vaccine (or infection). One hypothesis to explain this observation is that our immune system ages with us; when we’re young, we’re able to mount a stronger immune response. 

Does it matter which vaccine I get?
No, not unless you’re younger than 18.  The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for those 16 years and older, while the Moderna vaccine is approved for those 18 years and older. Other than that small caveat, during their respective clinical trials the vaccines were very similar in terms of safety and their ability to prevent COVID-19.

Why do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve recovered from COVID-19?
If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you can think of your exposure to the virus as learning additional information in class.  Getting vaccinated after recovering is like reviewing information to help boost your memory and improve recall — and you may even learn some new information you missed in class! Both mRNA vaccines work in a somewhat similar fashion, where the first dose prepares your immune system to respond, and the second dose allows your body to build rapid, robust, and protective immunity. 

In addition, to reiterate from a previous FAQ: We don’t yet know how long protection from infection lasts. We’ve seen that re-infection is possible, though rare, especially within 90 days after recovery. From the clinical trials, we also know that the vaccines are safe and effective in individuals who had evidence of prior infection.

Now that the vaccines are being distributed, are we continuing to monitor their side effects and safety?
Yes! The CDC has an excellent resource on Vaccine Safety Monitoring, but we’ll include a little summary here. 

Many of the systems the U.S. uses for ongoing safety monitoring for the COVID-19 vaccines are the same that are used for all vaccines.  These include the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), and Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project. VAERS collects reports of any adverse events that happen after vaccination; just because events are reported to VAERS doesn’t mean that they resulted from vaccination — follow up studies need to be done. Scientists can follow up on adverse events that are unexpected, frequently reported, or display an unusual pattern. In addition to monitoring possible adverse events when new vaccines are approved and making recommendations, the VSD conducts safety studies on vaccines, including addressing questions or concerns that arise in VAERS. Finally, CISA helps review individual cases, assists in vaccination decisions, and conducts studies to figure out who might be at risk for adverse effects and how we can prevent them. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has expanded its safety monitoring system to include V-safe, as well as an additional monitoring system for acute and long-term care facilities called the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). V-safe is a tool that conducts health checks-in with you after vaccination. It can also provide reminders about getting your second dose. If you report any severe or notable side effects, you may receive a follow up call for more details from someone at the CDC.  If you’ve been vaccinated in the last six weeks, you can register for V-safe here: https://vsafe.cdc.gov/. (last updated 2/11/21)

What are the consequences if I receive only one shot rather the required two for the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna)?
If you recall from the FAQ answer to “Why do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve recovered from COVID-19”, the first dose of the mRNA vaccines prepares your immune system to respond, and the second dose allows your body to build rapid, robust, and protective immunity. The data we have from the clinical trials estimates 53% efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 70% efficacy between the first and second doses. However, as the clinical trials were designed to study efficacy after two doses, the data we have after receiving a single dose isn’t as complete and we don’t have data on long-term protection or side effects after only one dose. 

The good news?  At the end of January 2021, the CDC also updated its guidelines, saying that in cases where the recommended time between doses isn’t possible, the second dose can be scheduled up to 42 days after the first dose. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently under review at the FDA. (last updated 2/11/21)

Can I catch COVID-19 from receiving the vaccine?
No. The currently available Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain instructions to make only one piece of the virus — the spike protein. They do not contain intact coronavirus or the instructions to make coronavirus — this means you aren’t infected with coronavirus when you receive the vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is currently in the approval process at the FDA, also contains instructions to make only one piece of the virus and doesn’t contain intact coronavirus or instructions to make coronavirus.

Vaccine side effects such as fever, fatigue, and redness, pain, and swelling at the injection site are all the body’s expression of an inflammatory response. Inflammation is our body’s way of communicating that we’re fighting off something and mounting an immune response. In fact, many of the symptoms you experience when you’re sick aren’t actually caused by what you’re infected with, but rather are signs that your immune system is working; there’s a great video that explains this: TedEd – The Surprising Reason You Feel Awful When You’re Sick.  Moreover, one of the many reasons vaccines work is that your immune system can’t distinguish whether it’s fighting off a piece of the invader (like the spike protein of the coronavirus we encounter in a vaccine) or the invader itself (like the coronavirus). So, while no one wants feel lousy after a vaccine, take heart that it’s a sign your immune system is responding.

For more information on how these vaccines work, see our answers to ‘How do mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 work?” and “How do the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines work?”  Alternatively, here’s an excellent resource on how each of the different types of COVID-19 vaccines that are either approved or in clinical trials work. (last updated 2/11/21)

Have more questions about COVID-19 vaccinations? 
Here are some regularly updated places where you can find reliable information:

Is your question not answered here or would you like further explanation?
Please email covid19@coloradocollege.edu with “Vaccine FAQ” in the subject line and look for an answer in a future COVID-19 weekly report.

 

COVID-19 Testing

What is the Colorado College Coronavirus testing program?
The college has developed a three-pronged approach to testing for Coronavirus. First, all students are tested upon arrival to campus. Second, individuals who have symptoms or who have had exposure to likely cases can request to be tested. Third, the college tests a sample of the campus community each week (sometimes referred to as "surveillance testing").

Any student, faculty, or staff member who experiences symptoms can get a test. We continue to do testing of our students, including those off campus, at a rate of 33% weekly. As we get more feedback from our Scientific Advisory Group and our epidemiology team, we will shift our sampling accordingly.

How does COVID testing work?
There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19: diagnostic tests and antibody tests.

  • Diagnostic tests tell you if you have a current infection by detecting genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nose and upper throat. Currently there are two types of diagnostic tests:
    • Molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests, that detect the virus's genetic material. Results can be available from between 24 hours and several days.
    • Antigen tests detect specific proteins from the virus. Results can be available in as little as 15 minutes.
  • An antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection. Your immune system develops antibodies in response to threats like viruses. Antibodies help fight infections, can take several days or weeks to develop after you have an infection, and may stay in your blood for several weeks or more after recovery. At this time, it is not known whether the presence of antibodies means that you are immune to COVID-19, nor how long such immunity might last.

How accurate are COVID tests?
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Both molecular and antigen diagnostic tests are highly specific, meaning they almost never give a false positive. If you are tested for COVID-19 and the test comes back positive, you can be very sure that you have this virus.

However, no test is 100% accurate. The accuracy of COVID-19 tests vary depending on which test is used, the type of specimen tested, how it was collected, and the duration of illness, as well as errors in the processing or reading of tests.

Because these diagnostic tests are detecting the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus present in the nose and throat, the timing of testing can have a large impact on results. For instance,

  • If you are tested on the day you were infected, your test result is almost guaranteed to come back (falsely) negative, because there are not yet enough viral particles in your nose and throat to detect. Waiting to test for several days after exposure decreases the chance of getting a false negative test result.
  • If you are tested on the day you develop symptoms, your test results may still come back (falsely) negative because there are not yet enough viral particles in your nose and throat to detect. Chances of a false negative decrease a few days after you develop symptoms.

Antigen tests usually provide results that can diagnose an active Coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests, but antigen tests have a higher chance of missing an active infection. If an antigen test shows a negative result indicating that you do not have an active Coronavirus infection, your health care provider may order a molecular test to confirm the result.

For more information, see the FDA's COVID Testing Basics webpage: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/coronavirus-disease-2019-testing-basics

What do my COVID-19 test results mean?
Because a positive COVID-19 test result means that you can be very sure that you have this virus, you will need to isolate for at least 10 days (and until your symptoms improve), and you will need to work with contact tracers to notify others who have been exposed and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to more people.

The accuracy of COVID-19 tests vary depending on a number of factors, including the duration of illness and viral load, which test is used, the type of specimen tested, and how it was collected. Because it is possible to get a negative result even when you have Coronavirus, it is important to be careful even when you receive a negative result, since you could still become infectious and/or ill at any point in the ten days following any exposure. Therefore, regardless of test results, continue to practice standard risk-mitigation practices like maintaining physical distance from other people outside of your living unit, wearing masks, and washing your hands frequently.

When should I get tested?
Because COVID-19 testing provides results reflecting a snapshot in time, you should always continue to practice standard risk-mitigation practices like maintaining physical distance from other people outside of your living unit, wearing masks, and washing your hands frequently.

Until sufficiently high vaccination rates are achieved, all students will continue to participate in weekly testing. The percentage may be reduced gradually as conditions allow. ALL students, regardless of vaccine status, must continue to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing.

The CDC currently recommends that the following people get tested:

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have had COVID symptoms, you should contact the Student Health Center at (719) 389-6384. You will need to isolate for at least 10 days from the time symptoms started and cooperate with contact tracers.
  • People who have had close contact (within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more) with someone with confirmed COVID-19.​​ Timing of post-exposure tests is important: if you are tested on the day you were exposed, your test result is almost guaranteed to come back negative, because there are not yet enough viral particles in your nose or saliva to detect, and because you can develop COVID symptoms and become infectious at any time within ten days of exposure. Therefore, if you have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19, you will have to remain in quarantine for ten days from last exposure, regardless of test results.
  • People who have been asked or referred to get testing by their healthcare provider, or by their local or state health department.
  • If you think you've been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19 and choose to be tested, you should do so 7 days after exposure and should quarantine: ten days from exposure (or 14 days from exposure in the case of infection with a viral variant).

If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.

Testing prior to travel is not a current recommendation of the CDC, although it is required prior to some international travel. See the CDC's guidance for travelers: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html.

Should I get a COVID-19 test before I travel?
Testing prior to a trip will only tell you whether you had an active infection with enough viral load to be picked up by the test at the time of the test.

Remember that you could develop illness and become contagious anytime from 2 to 10 days after an exposure, and that travel itself can increase your risk of exposure. The best way to protect your family is to stay home. There is currently a very high demand for COVID testing in El Paso County due to high rates of COVID-19 infection. We cannot accommodate all requests for testing on campus at this time. For anyone else who would like to get tested and is not in this week's sample, there are a number of testing facilities in town. Please be aware that due to the high demand for testing, turn-around times in many labs have been significantly slowed; you may wait as long as 3-7 days to get test results back.

Regardless of test results, you should always continue to engage in standard risk-mitigation practices like maintaining physical distance from other people outside of your living unit, wearing masks, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

What should I do if I feel sick or have been exposed to someone who might be infected with Coronavirus?
Please contact the Student Health Center at (719) 389-6384 to speak with a health care professional about arranging testing. After hours, please call Optum at (719) 636-2999.

What is the point of testing selected members of the college community?
There are two goals of frequent testing. First, it allows the college to identify individuals who may be infectious, so that they can be isolated in order to limit transmission to other members of the community. Many individuals who are infected with Coronavirus may display few or no symptoms but can still spread the virus to others. Second, it gives the college up-to-date information about the prevalence of Coronavirus in our campus community. This information is used to adjust campus alert levels and make other important decisions. Thus, surveillance testing is an important tool for detecting outbreaks before they grow too large. However, testing is not a replacement for disease-prevention practices such as social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing.

Who is included in the pool of people subject to testing?
The testing pool consists of all students who are living or studying on campus, as well as faculty and staff whose jobs require them to come into frequent contact with other members of the campus community.

How did CC decide how many people / how often to test?
The college has a Scientific Advisory Group consisting of faculty with relevant expertise. This group consulted scientists from other institutions and conducted mathematical modeling in order to estimate the level of testing that would be likely to prevent large outbreaks on campus, provided that disease-prevention practices such as social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing are adhered to. The testing rate can be adjusted based on the current prevalence in the campus community.

How does CC decide which individuals to test in any given week?
All students are tested when they first arrive on campus. After that, everyone in the testing pool (including students residing on campus and off campus in Colorado Springs) is subject to selection for testing. Each week, a set of individuals is selected from the testing pool. The sample is stratified by residence halls and classes. This means that each student in a given residence hall and class has the same probability of being chosen as part of the sample. To further reduce risk of infection for the campus community, samples may be adjusted to include additional students in areas of the campus with known active infections. Stratified samples help to achieve good coverage of the campus population. No demographic or other personal information is used in selecting individuals to be tested.

Why are some individuals or groups tested more often than others?
The selection process means that some groups may be under- or over-represented in any given week. This is due purely to chance, and it will even out in the long run.

What kind of test is CC using?
We are using molecular tests, such as PCR-based tests, the current best method for detecting novel Coronavirus. This type of test detects the presence of viral genetic material, a strong indication of current infection.

Why doesn't CC use antibody or antigen testing?
Antibody tests detect the presence of an immune response, which is an indication that an individual has likely been infected at some point in the past. While antibody tests are useful for reconstructing the history of an epidemic, they are not useful for determining who is currently infected. Antigen tests, like PCR-based tests, detect current viral infection. Antigen tests are currently being studied by scientists to determine whether they are as reliable as molecular tests. Their relative speed and lower cost mean that they may provide a preferable option the near future, and CC is monitoring these developments closely.

How should I interpret a positive or negative test result?
Molecular tests have a low "false positive" rate, so a positive test result is a strong indication that an individual is currently infected. Infected individuals are able to spread the virus to others, even if they feel healthy. These tests do have a higher (but uncertain) "false negative" rate, in which an individual tests negative but is actually infected. The false negative rate varies with time since infection, as well as other factors. Thus, a negative test result is not a guarantee that an individual is uninfected.

Is CC planning to run its own tests on campus?
The college is currently working with a company to develop our own on-campus testing facility. Once the technical and legal hurdles have been cleared, we plan to carry out molecular and/or antigen-based tests in our own laboratory facilities on campus. This will allow us to reduce waiting times for test results as well as add to our community's testing capacity.

 

Isolation/Quarantine Procedures 

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When will quarantining be required?
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Any CC community member who is identified through contact tracing as having been exposed to COVID-19 patients will be required by the college or public health authority to separate themselves from other members of the community for ten days from the last date of exposure (or 14 days in the case of viral variants), and to notify campus of the need for quarantine. Additionally, any CC community member traveling from outside of the U.S., or from domestic locations with high rates of community transmission, will be required to quarantine for ten days from their date of departure from the affected area, and to notify the college of their travel at least 72 hours prior to their return to campus by contacting msantos@coloradocollege.edu. For students living on campus, this notification will initiate the process of meal delivery and daily check-ins.

Quarantine Protocols Starting June 1
We will continue to follow CDC guidance to determine quarantine needs.

Fully vaccinated students do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, unless they have symptoms. These students should schedule their next weekly test for 5-7 days after exposure.

Students who are not fully vaccinated and have an exposure should quarantine for 10 days, with testing on day 5-7 and again on day 10. The county health department may require 14 days of quarantine in the case of infection with variants.

When will isolation be required?
Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. There are two types of isolation: self-isolation and mandatory isolation.

Self-isolation: CC students are required to isolate themselves from other community members if they experience any symptoms associated with COVID-19 (such as fever or chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea). Such isolation is achieved, for example, by the ill community member not attending class, not reporting to work, or not dining in communal spaces. Students experiencing symptoms should contact the Student Health Center, (719) 389-6384, to consult regarding need for testing or treatment. For afterhours, over-the-phone advice or consultation, please contact the Optum Urgent Care Center seven days per week at (719) 636-2999. Report any symptoms of COVID-19 to msantos@coloradocollege.edu. For students living on campus, this notification will initiate the process of meal delivery and daily check-ins.

Mandatory Isolation: Any CC community member who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required by the college or public health authority to isolate from others for at least 10 days and until symptoms clear. If you utilize testing sites off campus and receive a positive COVID-19 test, you must notify the college by contacting msantos@coloradocollege.edu.

Can students under quarantine leave the college to return home?
The Colorado Department of Public Health does not advise that students leave Colorado College to quarantine at home. Quarantine is best accomplished in college housing in order to limit the potential risk of exposure to students' families, communities, and other states. Quarantined students may leave to quarantine at home but only under strict protocols that do not expose others. We know this is a personal and difficult choice for students and their families. We also want to acknowledge that this is not necessarily possible for all students:

  • The quarantined student must have access to their own private bathroom.
  • It is not advised that students who live with high-risk or elderly individuals return home to quarantine.
  • If the student becomes symptomatic, the entire house will need to quarantine.
  • Quarantined students who live within a few hours' driving distance and can be driven home by a family member or responsible adult without stopping may leave at any time.

If I have been isolated or quarantined, why can't I "test out"? If I get a negative test result, shouldn't I be able to leave quarantine?
Even the best tests have a "false negative" rate, which means that some individuals who test negative are in fact infected and able to spread the virus. Thus, the CDC and other public health agencies recommend against using negative test results as a criterion for ending isolation or quarantine. Keeping individuals isolated or quarantined for the full duration of the typical infection is the surest way to break the chain of infections and protect our community from large outbreaks.

If I receive a positive test result and get tested again and receive a negative test result, can I end my isolation period? 
The Abbott ID Now is a molecular, PCR-like test that is unlikely to produce false positive results. The health department considers every positive a positive, regardless of negative follow-up test results. Thus, it is not possible to test out of isolation.  

The Abbott ID Now test is not an antigen test. Antigen tests are often called rapid tests because of their short turnaround time. The Abbott ID Now test also has a short turnaround time and unfortunately is sometimes called “the rapid test,” but it detects Coronavirus genetic material through an amplification process similar to a PCR test. Thus, with the Abbott ID Now, we get the best of both worlds, a highly accurate test with short turnaround time.  

 

If I choose to live off campus, will I be able to avoid quarantine or isolation?
Because of the nature of the virus, quarantine or isolation can happen on or off campus. Depending on a student's potential positive test result or exposure, we may need to ask students who live off-campus to quarantine or isolate. While we can provide support for our students who live on-campus who need to quarantine or isolate, we may not be able to provide the same support for students living off-campus in similar situations. There have been some off-campus students who requested and were approved to move back to campus so that they could receive consistent check-ins from case management staff, meal deliveries, and other support.

What is your plan to care for sick students?
We have isolation housing reserved for students who show symptoms and quarantine housing for students who may need to quarantine. There are 45 spaces set aside for this purpose. All these housing units are fully equipped with bedding, linens, TVs, etc., so if a student starts showing symptoms in their on‑campus housing or supplemental housing option and needs to be isolated immediately, they can bring themselves and a change of clothes to these units and have everything they need to get through the next day. There will be routine delivery of meals, medications, mail, and essentials.

On‑call staffing will be available on request when students need something else. The contact tracing team also will be supporting any student in isolation. The team will check in on symptom status, whether the student needs medical attention, how the student is coping mentally, what types of resources the student needs for their mental well-being, and how they're doing academically. The only reason an individual will need to leave an isolation or quarantine space is to see a doctor.

 

Employment

View the FAQs for employees.

 

Athletics

See the Athletics FAQs on the CC Tigers website for more information.

How will testing work for NCAA athletics participation?
Colorado College is following NCAA, conference, and state/county level recommendations for resocialization and testing. The health and safety of our student-athletes is overseen by our sports medicine team and physicians. We are also working with the CC Athletics COVID-19 Action team to coordinate with on-campus policies and protocols. Testing above and beyond our campus approach will be informed by NCAA considerations and managed by the sports medicine team. Exact timing and protocols will be developed and timed with any competition or travel-related activities. For questions related to athletics medical information or policies, please contact Richard Bennett, associate athletics director for sport performance and well-being, at rbennett@coloradocollege.edu.

Who will be able to attend and watch sporting events?
It is unclear at this time who will be able to attend practice or competition outside of student-athletes, coaches, and support staff. Colorado College plans to work with the county as well as monitor conference and NCAA best practices to inform our visitor and spectator policy.

What recreational opportunities will be available (fitness center, club sports, intramurals, group fitness classes)?
Campus recreation is committed to providing recreational opportunities to the CC community. The fitness center will continue to be open and group fitness classes offered as county and state guidelines permit. Currently, six club sports are active on campus; view the student contacts for these sports. Spring intramurals are being planned: Four vs. four volleyball, badminton, ping-pong, and short-sided ice hockey. Masks are required for all activities; capacity restrictions and social distancing will be enforced for all campus recreational activities.

 

International Students

Read the international student frequently asked questions.

 

Prospective Students

Are admission open houses and on-campus tours canceled?
Yes. To mitigate the risk to our students, faculty, and staff, we are not welcoming outside visitors to campus through the end of 2020 and potentially beyond. We will monitor our county's recommendations for optimal risk mitigation and will update prospective students when we have additional guidance.

Will there be any sort of online/virtual replacement for open houses and tours?
We invite you to check out our virtual opportunities intended to bring you closer to the CC community! More information about virtual tours, information sessions, interviews, open houses, and more is available here.

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Emergency Response Fund

For Students

Learn about requesting support from the (COVID-19) Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund

For Others

Because many in the Colorado College community asked how they can help, we have established the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Response Fund to meet needs during these uncertain times. Many of our alumni, parents, and friends, as well as members of our Board of Trustees and the president's cabinet, have contributed. The fund also provides the college with resources to respond to unexpected expenses developing during this crisis and for lost revenue.

If you wish to contribute, please visit https://ourcc.coloradocollege.edu/covid19responsefund