Classes will begin as scheduled on January 24th, despite an ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant. Classes will be held virtually for the first week before returning to in-person and masked on January 31st.
In an email to the campus community on Monday, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Mike Ranen announced that, although the College will take extra precautions to combat the Omicron variant, the student experience in the spring semester will not be significantly different from the fall semester.
President Rose stressed the importance of learning to coexist with COVID-19 in a email sent later the same day. He characterized the future of living with COVID-19 as endemic (“a regular feature of the viral diseases that we can acquire”), citing masking and vaccines as effective ways to mitigate the virus.
“Interestingly, the Omicron data we have and the experiences with this variant provide insight into what will likely shape our future of ‘living with COVID,'” Rose wrote. “In particular, the virus will be ‘endemic’…, fully vaccinated (boosted) individuals are unlikely to suffer serious health consequences, and masking during an outbreak (or in general) is very effective at preventing acquisition or transmission of the virus.”
Rose explained that daily masking would continue in certain settings on campus in order to protect those who have unvaccinated family members at home, particularly young children. While preaching patience and caution, Rose stressed that the ultimate goal of the College was to return to a more normal way of life.
Before returning to campus, all students are required to take a rapid antigen test, and immediately upon arrival, students must take a virtually observed antigen test. Students will be asked to remain in a “hibearnation” state— staying in their private rooms as much as possible, eating to-go meals and wearing masks anytime they are around other people—until they receive a negative PCR test.
After two rounds of PCR tests, aspects of campus such as student programming and sporting events will begin to return to normal.
In a shift from the fall semester, Mike Ranen announced that students who contract COVID-19 throughout the course of the semester, and display little to no symptoms, will no longer have to quarantine in a hotel or dorm room reserved for students with the virus. Instead, students can remain in their dorm room and will only be required to quarantine for five days, as opposed to ten, in line with the CDC’s recent shift in recommendations.
As previously reported, all students are expected to have received a booster shot before arriving for the spring semester, in addition to their original COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, Ranen announced that students would be required to wear surgical masks or KN-95 masks, deeming cloth masks unacceptable.
“This plan is designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to manage any positive cases while allowing us the opportunity to resume the work and activities of the College,” Ranen wrote. “With your cooperation, care, and attention, we anticipate loosening many of these restrictions in the days ahead.”