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McDaniel College hosts first public COVID vaccine clinic, plans future pandemic-related efforts

Despite continuing high transmission levels in Carroll County at large, McDaniel College has responded to the demands of college life during a pandemic positively, according to officials at the Westminster school.

“This semester, students are in a much better place on campus than the previous academic year because we were able to remove so many of the COVID-related restrictions. … We will continue to do the things [next year] that we found to be successful in the fall,” said Liz Towle, McDaniel’s dean of students.

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According to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard, last updated on Dec. 10, the college has since reached a 95% vaccination rate for students and a 90% vaccination rate for full-time faculty/staff. The remaining 5% of students who were not vaccinated were approved for a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine, said Cheryl Knauer, director of public relations at the college.

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The college held its first public COVID vaccine clinic last week in partnership with the Carroll County Health Department. Located in McDaniel College’s Gill Center, volunteers distributed COVID-19 booster shots and vaccinations to anyone 12 years of age or older.

Towle said public vaccination clinics will continue to be available during the spring semester to help reduce the spread of the virus.

“We began to talk with [the Carroll County Health Department] about continuing to have clinics on campus during the spring so that our students can receive booster shots, as well as faculty and staff,” Towle said.

Last spring, the college partnered with the health department to host similar clinics primarily geared toward students, Towle added.

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“We have a very strong working relationship with the health department and they have been an invaluable resource to us since the beginning of the pandemic,” Towle said.

Roger Casey, former president of the college, created the Return to the Hill Task Force in 2020. The task force makes recommendations on college operations to combat COVID-19. They also receive guidance from state and county health officials, according to the college’s website.

McDaniel has instituted community health protocols that align with the transmission categories developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide clear guidance about college and campus life.

“This allows us to make changes to requirements for indoor events and masking as transmission levels change — for most of the fall semester, Carroll County was either at a high or substantial level, which required masks indoors, excluding residence halls,” Knauer said.

McDaniel will also require flu vaccinations for students for the spring 2022 semester, according to Knauer.

“We began requiring the flu vaccine of students last spring and found that to be very effective in managing not only COVID but influenza on the campus, so we will do that again this spring,” Towle said.

Mandatory flu vaccinations, coupled with continual monitoring of the transmission rate in Carroll County, will be the strategy moving forward, Towle added.

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