Harvey Mudd announces spring booster requirement amid increase in cases

Two masked students talking together
Following an increase in cases at Harvey Mudd and LA County, Mudd students are required to receive the updated booster. (Natalie Bauer • The Student Life)

Harvey Mudd College will require all students to receive the latest COVID-19 bivalent booster dose prior to returning to campus for the spring 2023 semester, Dean of Students Marco Antonio Valenzuela told students in an email sent Thursday.

Valenzuela initially announced the booster requirement via email last Saturday, also noting that the number of students in isolation at Harvey Mudd rose to eight last week. Harvey Mudd saw a previous surge at the beginning of this semester, when cases surged to 24, but numbers remained low up until last week. 

In his Nov. 3 follow-up email, Valenzuela said Mudders will be required to upload their COVID-19 vaccination record to Student Health Services no later than Jan. 9 or prior to returning to campus from Winter Break, whichever date is first.

“We hope this flexible timeline will allow you to receive the booster while still on campus this semester, or at home during the break,” Valenzuela told students. 

To receive boosters, Valenzuela referred students to SHS, which offers Pfizer and Moderna Booster shots by appointment. Harvey Mudd will also host a SHS-dedicated Bivalent Booster Clinic where students can get vaccinated, with more details to come soon, Valenzuela said.

SHS did not respond to TSL’s inquiry on other colleges’ status on booster requirements.

Last winter, all the 5Cs required students to receive a COVID-19 booster shot for the spring 2022 semester due to nationwide case increases. Pomona was the first college to announce this requirement Dec. 13, and the other colleges followed with similar announcements soon after.

The new bivalent booster targets the original strain along with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. At a state and national level, the number of people who have received this round of the booster is low. About 11.4 percent of eligible Californians have received the updated bivalent booster. Nationwide, that figure is 7.3 percent among eligible recipients

However, B.Q. 1 and B.Q. 1.1 — subvariants descended from BA.5 — are rising nationally, comprising 14.0 percent and 13.1 percent of cases in the week of Oct. 23, respectively. This rise was nearly double the rates from the previous week in mid-October, according to CDC data. 

Los Angeles County’s case rate showed weekly increases after mid-October, following a relatively stable rate during the summer, according to the LA Times. 

Although cases remain at low levels, for the seven-day period that ended Monday, LA County was averaging 979 cases a day, a 7 percent increase from the prior week

Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Public Health Director, noted that “emerging variants and subvariants of the virus have played a large role in driving past surges,” the LA Times reported in a Nov. 1 article.

“We ought to prepare for the possibility of another winter surge. We want to be realistic because every COVID surge brings additional risk,” Ferrer said. “However, we’re also optimistic because we have powerful tools, including therapeutics and the new bivalent boosters, that can blunt the impact.”

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