Change in Campus Operating Status, Isolate-in-Place in Effect

May 11, 2022

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

With the results of yesterday’s PCR testing plus those of the antigen tests taken so far today, we are now at 38 student positive results in the past 24 hours – the highest number we have seen since late February and bringing the total of student positives to 90. Additionally, per the all-College message on May 6, we have now exceeded our limit for isolation housing at the Rodeway and Hampshire College and will begin to isolate some students in place in the residence halls.

In light of these factors, we are moving to Campus Operating Status Level 2: Enhanced COVID-19 Precautions with the following protocols effective immediately:

Updated Masking Policy

May 9, 2022

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

In light of the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 on campus, and in order to preserve our ability to have a successful and celebratory conclusion to the academic year, including for our graduating seniors, we are updating the College’s mask policy as follows, effective immediately and for the remaining three weeks of the semester:

  • KN-95 masks will be required in all indoor spaces excluding residence halls and Val Dining Hall and when alone in a private office with the door closed.

We appreciate everyone’s willingness to do their part.

Sincerely,

Catherine Epstein
Provost and Dean of the Faculty

Liz Agosto
Chief Student Affairs Officer and Dean of Students

Change to COVID-19 Isolation Procedures

May 6, 2022

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff

Due to a continuing high number of COVID-19 cases among students, we are close to capacity in our isolation housing (Rodeway and Hampshire College) and we are highly likely to need to move to an isolate-in-place model for positive cases this weekend. 

This means that students who test positive will isolate in their rooms if, and only if, they are in a single-occupancy room or they are in a double-occupancy room and their roommate has also tested positive.  Here are a few more details to be aware of:

Increased Number of Cases/A Protocol Change

May 4, 2022

Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty,

As you are likely aware, we are experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases here on campus. We currently have 65 students, 5 faculty members and 6 staff members with positive cases.

The steady increase in cases is worrisome, and the implications are potentially quite serious. 

  • We are close to exceeding our isolation room capacity at the Rodeway, and are likely to begin housing isolating students at Hampshire College. 

  • Students now contracting COVID-19 may be negatively affected in their ability to take their finals, to leave campus as planned at the end of the semester, and potentially, for seniors, to participate fully in Commencement activities, including in the ceremony itself. 

  • We have many celebratory events scheduled over the coming weeks and those could be jeopardized.

Spring Break: Antigen Testing, Return Testing

March 3, 2022

Dear Students:

As you begin to anticipate Spring Break, we want to provide you with information about self-administered antigen testing for those who travel away from campus, as well as the testing protocol for all students before classes resume on Monday, March 21. 

Students who remain on campus

  • Those students who remain on campus will test two times — Sunday, March 13, and Wednesday, March 16. All students must test on Sunday, March 20.

Update: COVID Cases and Lifting Protocols

March 1, 2022

Dear Students, 

On Friday, February 25, I sent an email updating you on the increase in positive COVID-19 student cases and our single greatest number of cases on one date since the beginning of the pandemic. In response to that sudden spike of cases, I shared updated, temporary protocols designed to slow down continued spread and give us an opportunity to assess if that spike would continue over additional testing cycles. I know that the temporary tightening of restrictions caused a range of emotions — I received messages from students thankful for increased vigilance, from students who were angry and incredulous at the changes, and from others who were confused and concerned about what this might mean for the remainder of the academic year. 

High COVID-19 Positives: Update to Protocols

February 25, 2022

Dear Students,

Yesterday there were over 40 new positive student cases, swiftly bringing our number of current active cases to 103 and to more than 50% utilization of our isolation space. Most of the students in isolation are experiencing mild symptoms, with some feeling like they have the flu. Hampshire County, including the town of Amherst, remain at very high risk, despite COVID-19 numbers declining across the state.  

With this rapid increase in student cases, we are taking the following additional measures to mitigate the spread. 

  • Effective immediately, masks must once again be worn in residence halls unless you are in your own room with the door closed.

  • Val will operate at 50% capacity beginning at breakfast today, February 25.

IMPORTANT: Change to COVID-19 Testing Frequency

February 21, 2022

Dear Students,

Unfortunately, while the results of last Thursday’s testing day were slightly more promising (16 positive student cases), we had 23 new student cases yesterday.

Given the ongoing high number of cases and the importance of identifying positive cases in order to mitigate spread, we will resume three-times-a-week testing for this week and next. 

This week, because we are on a Sunday/Wednesday schedule, we will add Friday, Feb. 25 to the testing schedule (you can expect an email from the Testing Center with sign-up instructions no later than this Wednesday). Next week we will revert to the Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

IMPORTANT: Increase in Positive COVID-19 cases

February 17, 2022

Dear Students,

While we were pleased that we did not experience a surge of positive COVID-19 cases during the move-in period, we have continued to see a steady number of positive cases over the past two weeks. Of greatest concern now is the fact that Tuesday’s tests produced 20 positive student results, nearly double the number we have seen on any testing day since the beginning of move-in (our 14-day positivity rate is .75%; the positivity rate for Tuesday was approximately 1.25%). 

We are writing to remind you to please take every precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you are experiencing any symptoms, please self-isolate, wear a mask at all times when indoors, and go to the Testing Center for an extra PCR test. Symptomatic students may request an antigen test; the Testing Center will accommodate this request if their capacity allows. If you need additional KN95 masks, they are available at the Testing Center’s check-in stations.

COVID-19 Testing Compliance for Spring 2022

January 14, 2022

Dear Students,

In the two years we’ve been living with COVID-19, each time we might be able to begin to relax protocols in a significant way, there has been a new development in the virus that has required us to alter course. We recognize that the shifts in protocols have been difficult for all members of our community, but especially for students. Our protocols, especially testing and masking expectations, are designed to support community health. We are grateful to the vast majority of you for being respectful of, and complying with, the policies we have established. Compliance is critical to our ability to come together as a community, in gatherings large and small, for the in-person interactions that we all value so much.

Spring ’22 Arrival Details

January 13, 2022

Dear Students,

As promised in Biddy’s Jan. 11 message, we are writing to share additional details about preparing for and arriving on campus for the Spring 2022 semester. The information that follows includes details about the student move-in process. There is a great deal of information to cover, so please read carefully. This message includes:

Preparing for Spring Semester/COVID Update

January 6, 2022

Dear Students,

As we near the end of the first week of J-term, I want to update you on what has been happening on campus and what to expect for communication as we prepare for the Spring semester.

Current COVID-19 Cases

In anticipation of the growing prevalence of the highly transmissible omicron variant and its possible impact on our community, President Martin sent a communication on December 21 encouraging faculty to transition their J-term classes to a remote format, strongly discouraging students from coming to campus when possible, and asking those staff who could work remotely to do so. This has proven to be a wise decision, as we are experiencing record high positive cases among community members. Since December 26, 45 students and counting (more results are being reported as I write this email) have tested positive and are isolating at home or at a nearby hotel. A significant number of staff have also tested positive. This is about 10% of the students currently on campus, markedly higher than we have seen since the start of the pandemic. At no point since March 2020, have we had a student positivity rate greater than 1% during any 14-day period.  

Promoting a Healthy November Break

November 11, 2021

Dear Students, 

November Break is just around the corner and we want to remind you of the steps you can take to ensure a healthy break for you, your family and friends, and your community:

  • Be vigilant about masking indoors. We understand it’s tiresome to be reminded constantly and we all have mask fatigue, but wearing a mask is still one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Update: Student testing compliance below 90%

Students are at risk of returning to stricter COVID protocols if testing compliance does not rise above 90% for the week.

November 3, 2021

Dear Students,

As we explained in our message on Sunday, students are at risk of two consecutive weeks of testing compliance falling below 90%.

Testing compliance for Sunday/Monday was 89.74%. If Wednesday/Thursday testing compliance does not bring compliance above 90% for the week, we will need to reintroduce one or more COVID-19 protocols. These may include:

  • Reintroducing travel restrictions and/or restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants
  • Decreasing Valentine Dining Hall capacity to 50%
  • Reintroducing event restrictions

Student testing compliance below 90%

October 31, 2021

Dear Students,

We are writing to alert you to the fact that this week our testing compliance was only 88.7%; this means that 439 student tests were missed this week. We have also received reports that students are consistently not masking in the library and science center.

When we announced the relaxation of some protocols on October 19, we indicated that our ability to remain at Level 1: Baseline COVID-19 Operations depended on a number of factors including student compliance with our testing and masking protocols. In addition, and importantly, we made clear that if student testing compliance fell below 90% for two consecutive weeks or if there were widespread reports of students failing to wear masks indoors, then additional protocols would be instituted.