Limited HRL staff to receive vaccine, RAs excluded

A+photo+of+Phelps+Residence+Hall+on+Tulane%27s+Uptown+Campus.

Daisy Rymer

A photo of Phelps Residence Hall on Tulane’s Uptown Campus.

Caroline Latta, Contributing Reporter

Some members of the Tulane community have begun to become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Phase 1A and 1B populations. 

First recipients of the [COVID-19] vaccine include Campus Health staff who work directly with infected students and employees and their close contacts, as well as frontline food service and custodial/operations staff who engage directly with large numbers of students,” Michael Strecker, executive director of public relations, said. 

As for members of the Housing and Residence Staff, only a limited number have been deemed eligible for vaccination. 

“Less than 20 members of Housing and Residence Life Staff, some of whom live in residence halls, have been notified that they could receive the vaccine. Eligible individuals are contacted directly with an email link to register for the downtown COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic,” Strecker said. 

Because Tulane School of Medicine is bound to follow the state’s COVID-19 immunization guidance, giving vaccination priority to other members of Housing and Residence Life, like Resident Advisors, is not permitted.

“At this time, the Louisiana Department of Health has not identified RAs as first recipients of the limited number of vaccines available,” Strecker said. 

RAs are not considered priority as first recipients, even though they come into contact with many residents because of their duties. Unlike other Tulane students who can keep their circle of close contacts small, RAs continually expose themselves to potential close contacts. 

“I would personally love it if RAs were given priority for vaccines, and I think it makes sense,” Talon Dearborne, an RA in Sharp Residence Hall, said. “Given that we come in very close contact with residents, from doing daily rounds throughout the building … to living in the halls with residents, we are put at a higher risk of both contracting and transmitting COVID-19.”

Last November, Tulane’s RAs proposed a list of demands in a petition on change.org stating that “In the face of a global health pandemic, we would hope that Housing and Residence Life would be more committed to the overall well-being of residents and Resident Advisors; instead, we have seen neglect across the board.” In this petition, specific to COVID-19, RAs demanded that “RAs, and all Tulane students, should be informed of COVID-19 clusters within the residence halls they reside in moving forward. While this information is HIPAA protected, residents infected should be given an option to communicate with those they live near, much like contact tracing … Disseminating this information will allow RAs and residents to know when to be hyper-vigilant with safety precautions.”

More information about RA demands can be found here.