Masks will no longer be required in student residence halls, administrative or academic buildings, athletic facilities and Smith Union, COVID-19 Resource Coordinator Mike Ranen announced in an email to the campus community today. Additionally, dining halls will reopen for faculty and staff, effective immediately.
However, masks will still be required in a number of environments and situations, including classrooms and lab spaces during scheduled classes, when interacting with staff in the library, while entering dining facilities and at indoor events that are open to the public.
Ranen announced that, while students will continue to be tested twice a week for the next few weeks, the College will move to pooled testing following Thanksgiving break. Additionally, beginning in January, students who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be isolated in the Freeport hotel. More information about isolation options close to or on campus will be provided at the beginning of the spring 2022 semester.
“As we relax some restrictions, we strongly encourage everyone to pay close attention to instances where appropriate social distancing is not possible and to wear a face covering in these situations,” Ranen wrote. “The pandemic is not over, and we all need to acknowledge the possibility that more restrictive conditions might have to be restored if conditions worsen—this is part of living with the virus.”
According to Ranen, the shift in the College’s policy reflects an acknowledgement that preventing all cases of COVID-19 on campus may not be possible. Instead, resources will be redirected toward supporting students in isolation and slowing down potential outbreaks.
“We understand that students, faculty and staff want some level of normalcy in their interactions,” Ranen said. “We’re not looking for zero cases to stay in Green. We’re looking for a manageable amount of cases and knowing where the transmission is happening.”
Many students are enthusiastic about the change in policy and were excited about the prospect of being able to enter more on-campus spaces without masks.
“I think [the change] is exciting,” Yasmeen Wirth ’22 said. “It feels like a return back to normal, which is welcome, considering we don’t have much time left here.”
Other students were hesitant about the sudden change in policy, especially since it so closely followed the College’s Family Weekend. The campus saw an increase in cases following Homecoming Weekend and around fall break, prompting student concerns that a similar spike will occur this week.
“I appreciate having the option [to not wear a mask], but especially since [the change] happened after Family Weekend, I’m still not completely trusting about it,” Molly Petronzio ’22 said.
Ranen said that he was less concerned about an outbreak after Family Weekend because students were likely engaged in less risky activities than during Homecoming and fall break.
“We feel like the way that students interact with their families is maybe different than the way they may have interacted with friends over fall break if they visited a friend at other schools or with Homecoming, the way they interacted with young alumni, for example,” Ranen said. “Obviously, we still could see some cases from Family Weekend, but we don’t expect it to be the same magnitude as what we could have seen either from Homecoming or from fall break.”