In an email to the campus community on Wednesday, President Clayton Rose outlined the College’s Covid-19 plan for a semester that will look more familiar to the College pre-pandemic than any other semester that has come in its wake.
Among other changes from the 2021-2022 academic year’s protocols, the email highlighted an end to PCR surveillance testing and masking in almost all cases as well as a warm welcome back to all campus visitors.
Despite a current global rise in Covid-19 cases—due in large part to the highly contagious and infectious Omicron BA.5 variant—the College has determined that its goal is to return life on campus to as normal as possible. Rose cited vaccinated individuals’ low risk of severe illness or hospitalization and increased knowledge about Covid-19 as the reasons for this decision in his email.
Despite the loosened masking restrictions, all students, faculty and staff are still required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 this fall. All students are required to get a flu vaccine once they become available, while faculty and staff are strongly recommended to do so. Once the second Covid-19 vaccine booster—which targets the Omicron subvariants—is approved and recommended by the CDC, the College will require all members of the campus community to receive a dose.
Although all students, faculty and staff must take a PCR or rapid test for Covid-19 prior to returning to campus for the fall semester, the College will not require surveillance PCR or rapid tests during the semester. Once the fall semester is underway, rapid tests will only be available to symptomatic students through the Health Center or OneCard office. With the end of surveillance testing comes an end to the Covid-19 dashboard that has recorded every campus Covid-19 case over the past two years.
In addition, masks will no longer be required for vaccinated students, faculty and staff anywhere on campus. Those with vaccination exemptions are expected to wear masks in all college buildings and vehicles and may only be unmasked in their personal residences and offices. Masks will also be required for individuals who test positive for Covid-19, are close contacts or are symptomatic. Though they will not be required, anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a mask, Rose wrote, should feel welcome.
The protocol once an individual tests positive for Covid-19 remains largely the same as it was during the spring 2022 semester. Anyone testing positive must isolate in their private residence or home for a minimum of five days, depending on their symptoms. Unlike last spring, however, students will not need a negative test to exit isolation. Once symptoms resolve or the infected individual has been fever-free for 24 hours, they may resume attending classes and activities as normal while masking on campus until after day 10 from onset of symptoms or their initial positive test. Grab-and-go meals will be available to all students who test positive for 10 days.
For the first time since March 2020, all campus buildings, athletic events, museums and events will be open to the public at full capacity. Vaccinated visitors are permitted without restriction, and unvaccinated visitors are welcome and expected to mask in campus buildings, though the College will not verify vaccination status. Prior to this announcement, unmasked visitors have not been permitted in any building on campus, and most campus buildings have been closed to the public.
Varsity athletic practices and games are expected to operate normally.
After more than two years of being the College’s Covid-19 Coordinator, Associate Dean for Academic Administration Mike Ranen has stepped down from the role. For now, this role will not be filled, and the College will manage Ranen’s former responsibilities with what Rose described as a “decentralized structure.”
As Covid-19 continues to be present and evolve on campus and globally, the College will adjust its protocols when necessary.
Additionally, Rose explained that, while the College has identified the risk that monkeypox poses to the campus community as low, the College is preparing for possible cases on campus and will continue to keep the community informed of developments.
Rose acknowledged that with these changes can come anxiety and emotional challenges, and he urged the College community to support one another as the College makes this transition.