New Year Updates for Health and Safety on Campus

Friday, January 7, 2022

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,

The COVID-19 Health and Safety committee continues to monitor information regarding the omicron variant of the coronavirus as well as changes to CDC recommendations for health and safety protocols. We write today to highlight certain health and safety points communicated before the December break and to provide further guidance and clarification on other key points. 

Please note that additional information about the semester start operating protocols for academics, co-curricular involvement, dining and student life will be shared next week.

Campus operating level

The College is currently maintaining Operating Level 1, which indicates normal COVID-19 operations. Our current guest, visitor and vendor policies remain in effect at this time. To mitigate the impact the omicron variant has on our campus community, we are de-densifying the campus during the January Intersession and continuing to test employees enrolled in our program and students living on campus during this period. We appreciate continued support of our mitigation strategies and are monitoring the situation here and around the world carefully so we can continue to make informed decisions as we approach the spring semester.

Those reviewing the COVID-19 dashboard will note that the College reported a number of cases over the break and in our first days of reopening the testing center. These cases include a number of employees who have not been on campus and all appropriate protocols have been implemented related to on-campus cases. Please continue to visit the College’s COVID-19 Dashboard for further information and updates to the campus operating level.

COVID-19 booster mandate

Effective January 24, 2022, all eligible students and employees will be required to have received a COVID-19 booster shot. Those not yet eligible should receive the booster within 15 days of becoming eligible. This timeframe has been reduced from 30 days as boosters are readily available in the area and have been identified as extremely helpful in reducing the instances and severity of the omicron variant.

This requirement, combined with adherence to other health and safety protocols — such as wearing a mask indoors, participating in the College’s testing program if applicable and maintaining physical distancing whenever possible — is an important factor in mitigating the spread of the omicron variant as well as the severity of the illness.

We anticipate being able to share booster documentation submission information by January 15, 2022. For more information regarding COVID-19 booster shots and eligibility, please refer to the CDC webpage

COVID-19 test results 

Generally, our lab testing partner, Broad Institute, processes our PCR tests within 24-36 hours after the lab receives them. This means that community members can typically expect to receive test results within two days after testing. However, during high volume times this can take longer and result notification is directly impacted by the volume at their laboratory. Broad Institute has recently reported a sharp increase in testing demand at this time and we therefore anticipate delays as they adjust staffing levels during the early days of January.  

This expected longer result turnaround time also impacts our ability to update the College dashboard in real time. However, we are making every effort to update the dashboard as soon as test result information is available to us. 

Employee information for Intersession

We have already taken steps to de-densify the campus and expect this de-densification will continue through January 17. Departments able to transition to a higher degree of remote work should 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 through at least February 1, 2022 to de-densify the building. All employees should also eat separately from others when on campus.

Student information for returning to campus

We intend to launch the spring semester in person as originally planned. In order to do so as safely as possible, we will be implementing the following measures which are also found on the spring 2022 return page. Note that residential students are expected to be back on campus on or before Saturday, January 22 and should return no later than Sunday, January 23.

  • All students, both residential and commuter, must agree to the Community Compact (residential/commuter) available on my.mtholyoke before arriving on campus. Failure to do so may result in removal from housing, a hold on attending classes or other outcomes.
  • Before coming to campus, all students are expected to get a COVID-19 (preferably PCR) test as close to departure as possible (ideally in the two- to three-day range). 
    • Please use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nationwide testing locator to find the nearest testing site to your location. 
    • Students who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days do not need to get a PCR test, but should contact Health Services at 413-538-2121 between the hours of 9 am and 1 pm, or email with subject line "+ COVID test in past 90 days" and include a copy of the test report with a clear date of positivity. 
    • If a student tests positive before coming to campus, they must notify the College via Health Services (see directions above, and use subject line “+ COVID test over break” if emailing) and may not arrive on campus until they have completed isolation at home or at their current location and received clearance from a medical professional. 
    • If a student tests negative, they should bring evidence of the test to the College Testing Center at arrival. 
    • If a PCR test is unavailable, rapid tests are an acceptable solution, but must be administered by an independent health facility (such as a doctor’s office, pharmacy or testing site).
    • Students having extreme difficulty obtaining a test should contact for guidance.
    • According to U.S. Department of State travel requirements, international students boarding a flight to the United States must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within one day of departure, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the past 90 days. 
  • Residential and commuter students taking classes on campus are required to test at the on-campus Testing Center and receive a negative result prior to starting classes. Upon arriving on campus, vaccinated students will receive a PCR test through the Testing Center. Unvaccinated students will receive a rapid test and a PCR test at Blanchard. Students who are exempt from vaccination or have not submitted their COVID-19 initial vaccine documentation will receive an email from Health Services with specifics on this testing protocol.
    • The Testing Center will have open hours on Saturday, January 22 and Sunday, January 23. If you are vaccinated and arrive on campus after Testing Center hours, you must go to testing first thing the next day. If you are unvaccinated and arrive after hours, you must call Public Safety and Service to be administered a rapid test.
  • All students MUST obtain at least one negative PCR test from the College’s Testing Center before attending classes. Faculty should note that some students who are late arrivals to campus may not be able to attend in-person classes during the first days of the semester.  

Dining on campus

It has been established that unmasked activity poses a high risk for transmission of COVID-19. Therefore, we are implementing changes to dining as students return to campus.  

All students returning during January Intersession MUST obtain at least two negative PCR tests from the College’s Testing Center before eating in the Dining Commons. Therefore, students will be required to take their food out from the Dining Commons and eat apart from others until receiving this second negative test result. This may mean eating in a residence hall or outdoors, if weather permits. Eating will not be permitted in other public spaces as we launch the semester. 

The Dining Commons is closed to employees during the month of January. 

In the coming weeks, we will be able to share further guidance regarding dining on campus as we approach the spring semester launch.

Quarantine and isolation policy updates

The College is modifying the isolation and quarantine protocols for Spring 2022 to generally align with the updated CDC guidance. 

  • Isolation for those testing positive for COVID-19:
    • All individuals (vaccinated and unvaccinated) diagnosed with COVID-19 will require a minimum of five days isolation, but up to 10 days or more, depending on symptom status. If an individual is without fever or worsening symptoms, they may exit isolation on day six, following a health check from Health Services for students or clearance from the Mount Holyoke contact tracing team for employees. Individuals will then need to adhere to strict KN95 masking through day 10. The College will provide KN95 masks.
  • Quarantine for close contacts of someone with COVID-19:
    • Individuals who are in compliance with the College’s vaccine and booster mandate will not need to quarantine, but will need to adhere to strict KN95 masking for 10 days following their last exposure. The College will provide KN95 masks. They must also get a COVID-19 PCR test as close as possible to five days following their last exposure. 
    • Individuals who have received an exemption from the vaccine and booster mandate will need to quarantine for five days following exposure, test as close to day five as possible and then adhere to strict KN95 masking for five additional days. The College will provide KN95 masks. 

We are continuing to review quarantine and isolation guidance from the CDC, and will update our policies as necessary. 

We thank you for your continued diligence in following the College’s health and safety guidance and remind you that we are all personally responsible and accountable for following these practices. We will continue to monitor the ever-changing health and safety landscape and communicate updates to the community as needed. In the coming weeks, we will be adjusting and updating our Health and Safety page to reflect Spring 2022 information. During this time, please also monitor email communications and the Mount Holyoke College This Week newsletter over the next few weeks as we relay health and safety details to the community. 

– The COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee

Paul Kandel, Associate Vice President for Strategic Projects (Chair)
Lindsay Adkins, Production Coordinator, Communications and Marketing
Josh Dufresne, Assistant Director, Public Safety and Service
Cheryl Flynn, Director, College Health Services
Gary Gillis, Associate Dean of Faculty
Shannon Gurek, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer (Cabinet liaison)
Marcella Runell Hall, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students (Cabinet liaison)
Lori Smith, Director, Environmental Health & Safety
Imad Zubi, Director of Auxiliary Services