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UCLA discusses COVID-19 vaccine guidelines, status of monkeypox at virtual town hall

UCLA hosted a town hall to educate the community about COVID-19 and monkeypox and answer questions about the university’s guidelines and procedures. (Screen capture by Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)

By Alexandra Kaiser

Aug. 29, 2022 4:16 p.m.

This post was updated Sept. 5 at 8:36 p.m.

UCLA administrators and public health experts held a town hall Tuesday to address concerns regarding updated COVID-19 guidelines and the status of monkeypox in the community.

The town hall, hosted by the UCLA COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force, aimed to keep the UCLA community aware of the current situation and how ongoing conditions will impact the university, said Michelle Sityar, chief of staff to the administrative vice chancellor, in an emailed statement. It also allowed community members to ask questions and receive answers from medical professionals, she added.

Dr. Peter Katona, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, began the town hall by giving an overview of the current state of COVID-19 and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Katona said previous infections and past vaccinations will offer the UCLA community some immunity against the virus this fall, leading to a milder disease.

The university removed the mask mandate and the COVID-19 symptom self-survey requirement Aug. 15. Masking is still required during isolation periods and for those in hospital settings, Sityar said, adding that UCLA will also continue providing COVID-19 tests through the vending machines.

Departments and professors are not allowed to individually require masking in an effort to maintain uniform guidelines across campus, Sityar said in response to a question submitted prior to the town hall. The university is continuing to monitor cases and will resume the masking mandate if needed, she added.

Sityar also introduced the UCLA COVID-19 Action Center, a new online service which combines UCLA guidelines and tools for dealing with the virus – such as the COVID-19 dashboard showing current cases on campus and other resources – into one platform. Students who test positive for COVID-19 can request anonymity on the COVID-19 dashboard through the action center, so their name will not appear on the dashboard, she added.

Dr. Annabelle de St. Maurice, a co-chief infection prevention officer for UCLA Health and professor of pediatrics, provided an update on the current state of monkeypox.

As of Aug. 22, there were 1,209 documented cases of monkeypox in Los Angeles County, 98% of which occurred in men, de St. Maurice said. Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, weakness, lymph node swelling and rash, she added. Most cases do not require treatment, but post-exposure prophylaxis is available for people considered high risk, she also said.

Megan McEvoy, the co-chair of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force, also discussed whether professors are required to provide recordings of classes for students.

“Instructors are not required to post videos for students, but instructors have been encouraged to be as accommodating as they can be for their students’ educational experience,” McEvoy said.

Sityar added that the university is continuing to monitor the situation and will adjust guidelines as needed.

“If for some reason there is a pivot that is warranted for fall quarter … we are in a good position to reinstate not only masking but other mitigation strategies as appropriate,” Sityar said.

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Alexandra Kaiser | Campus politics editor
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
Kaiser is the 2022-2023 campus politics editor. She was previously a News reporter and Opinion columnist. She is also a third-year communication and political science student.
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