On behalf of the COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee, I write today with important reminders and several updates.
While there is much yet to be understood about the omicron variant, public health experts agree it is a highlighly transmissible strain of COVID-19. The College continues to monitor the global and local situation carefully and will adjust health and safety plans accordingly. The mitigation strategies already in place at Mount Holyoke — vaccination (including boosters), masking and regular testing — continue to be our best defense against this virus and its variants. Please be reminded that the College will require all students and employees to demonstrate proof of booster vaccination in January 2022 (or within 30 days of becoming eligible).
Winter Break (December 24, 2021 - January 2, 2022)
As a reminder, most offices and departments are closed during this period. A number of staff will work during this period to support the approximately 200 students living on campus and/or to accomplish activities critical to the end of the calendar year. A sincere thanks to all who will be engaged with campus operations over this break — we appreciate your flexibility and trust that you and your supervisor have already identified alternative dates for your well-deserved time off.
Intersession (January 3 - January 23, 2022)
Students: Approximately 500 pre-registered student leaders, varsity athletes and those with campus research/employment obligations will return to campus between January 3 and January 19. All other residential students will move in on January 21 and January 22. Students living or taking classes on campus during the January Intersession will be tested upon arrival, required to test twice per week thereafter, remain masked indoors and observe any and all adjustments to activities such as indoor dining. Students will receive detailed instruction from Residential Life about all return protocols.
Employees: Given the uncertainty created by the current surge of COVID-19 globally, we aim to de-densify the campus through January 17. Departments that are able to transition to a higher degree of remote work during that time should plan to do so. This may include adjusting schedules for more remote days than typical and/or adjusting service hours for departments that are employee and/or student facing. Division leaders and department managers should communicate any changed expectations to employees directly. In addition:
- All employees currently included in our testing program should come to campus for weekly testing during Intersession, regardless of whether they are working on campus or remotely. Individuals expecting to be out of the area or otherwise unable to come to campus during Intersession should reach out to their supervisors for alternative arrangements. This is an important step to mitigate testing backlogs as students return to campuses across the state in January.
- The Dining Commons will be closed to faculty and staff beginning December 24, 2021 through at least February 1, 2022 in order to allow students full access to it as they return to campus.
Spring Semester Launch: Week of January 24, 2022
As has been the case throughout this pandemic, our goal is to launch the spring semester safely, utilizing public health guidelines and our own operating strategies to mitigate opportunities for community spread. Updates include:
- The COVID Health and Safety Committee is working with Student Life, Dining and other operational groups to support the safe return of students in stages. This will allow for appropriate arrival testing to be completed before the start of classes. Please note that all students and teaching faculty will be required to demonstrate at least one negative PCR test before the start of classes.
- We are monitoring and will adjust the campus operating levels as appropriate prior to and throughout the semester.
- Student and employee community protocols will be updated to reflect any changes to operating procedures prior to the start of the semester.
Please continue to check email and the Opening the Gates webpage for updates as the situation evolves, and we look forward to sharing more details in January.
Thank you for your continued diligence and patience as we adapt to the challenges created by this pandemic.
Shannon D. Gurek
Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer