Health and safety updates for fall 2022

Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum outlines the College’s COVID-19 health and safety plans for the fall semester.

July 28, 2022

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke Community,

I write to you today from South Hadley, knowing that my message will find many of you in various locations throughout the country and the world as you engage in summer research and internships, vacations and visits with family and friends. I am delighted to know that our College community extends to so many places beyond the gates, and that no matter where we are, we are all connected in our commitment to Mount Holyoke.

As you might expect, plans for the fall semester are well underway, and today I write to share our COVID-19 health and safety plans for the fall semester. Please know that decisions around these plans were carefully weighed and considered, always with the needs of our unique community in mind. While we have not yet reached a point where we can officially say that COVID-19 has moved fully from a pandemic stage to an endemic one, strategies are shifting, locally, nationally and internationally, toward policies that help us live with COVID-19 as an ever-present part of our daily lives. To that end, we are aiming to return to pre-pandemic operations as much as possible, with some additional precautions in place for the launch of the semester. 

Important highlights of the plan:

  • Residential students should obtain a COVID-19 test within 24 hours before arrival on campus. 
  • All employees who are returning to campus or have been working on campus over the summer must test within 24 hours before September 6, the day of Convocation. 
  • Three-layer masks will be required indoors from August 21–September 16, 2022, except when alone in a private space. Assuming community cases are not high, we will return to a mask-optional policy for indoor spaces as of September 17, 2022.
  • Following the initial move-in, students who test positive for COVID-19 during the semester will be directed to isolate in their residence hall rooms. The division of Student Life will communicate further guidance about this process directly to residential students in August. 

In addition to reviewing this note carefully, please also visit our COVID-19 Health and Safety page for detailed information and further instruction.

Vaccinations and boosters

There is no way to entirely eliminate the risk of contracting or being exposed to COVID-19. However, we remain confident in the research that points to vaccines and boosters as being among the most effective ways to mitigate the spread and severity of the illness. Mount Holyoke College will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and continue to require all employees and students to be receive a primary COVID-19 vaccination series and one booster for the 2022–2023 academic year. It is highly recommended that all community members stay up-to-date with their vaccinations and receive further boosters when and if eligible. Medical and religious exemptions will continue to be granted for those who qualify. Those who have already requested and received an exemption need not file again.

Testing

As the campus density increases in August, and as we plan to gather as a community for Convocation on September 6, we will require negative asymptomatic tests from all students and employees living or working on campus for the fall semester.

Students

  • All residential students should obtain a negative COVID-19 test no more than 24 hours before arriving on campus and be prepared to show third-party documentation of this test result upon arrival. Those who test positive should not come to campus and should report their results to health-admin@mtholyoke.edu for further guidance.
  • Self-test results will not be accepted, unless they are virtually observed by an independent third party provider that provides official documentation. *At-home observed testing services are available at outlets such as:
    - On-Point Testing
    - Rapid Test and Trace
    - eMed
    - Azova
    *for information purposes only; please note that Mount Holyoke does not endorse any of these providers
  • Students who cannot comply with this requirement will be tested immediately upon arrival to campus. However, students should note that this option may involve a prolonged move-in process due to wait times. Additionally, if the test is positive, students will be asked to return home for their isolation. If this is not possible, the College will provide isolation space as available. 
  • Graduate and commuter students will receive separate communication about showing their negative test results or receiving a test before Orientation, Convocation or the first day of classes. Questions can be directed to dean-students@mtholyoke.edu
  • This fall, we will offer symptomatic COVID-19 testing for students through College Health Services. Students who are asymptomatic and wish to test may do so either through a home test or at a clinic or pharmacy in the area. 

Employees

  • All employees who are returning to campus or have been working on campus over the summer should test within 24 hours before September 6, the day of Convocation.
  • During this time, and throughout the fall semester, tests should be obtained either locally at a clinic or pharmacy or through a home test.
  • All positive test results should be reported to covid-report-g@mtholyoke.edu, and all subsequent instructions followed. Negative results need not be reported.

Masking

Three-layer masks will be required inside all campus buildings from August 21 through September 16 while the campus quickly densifies. KN95 masks or better are recommended. Students need not wear a mask in their residence hall room. Masks will generally not be required outdoors except for those individuals who have been instructed to observe heightened safety measures following COVID-19 isolation. Should cases on campus or in Hampshire County warrant, the College may require masks for certain outdoor campus events. 

Anyone’s choice to wear a mask for any reason without explanation should be respected. While individuals or departments cannot create mask requirements separate from — or more restrictive than — College policy or accommodation requirements, we ask that everyone be attentive and respond reasonably to the concerns of others. KN95 masks will be available to those who need them. Please write to mhc-testing-g@mtholyoke.edu with questions regarding mask pickup for yourself or your department.

Guests, visitors and events

This fall, we are excited to welcome more guests and visitors back to our campus and to again host in-person events. Campus guests will be required to self-assess their symptoms and should follow any and all health and safety protocols in effect at the time of their visit. For further information regarding on-campus events, visit the Event Services web page.

Guests staying overnight in residence hall rooms will need to be registered and are required to be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. Students will receive additional information regarding fall 2022 residence hall policies from the division of Student Life. 

Resources for immunocompromised individuals and others with questions or concerns

Those who are immunocompromised should check in with a healthcare provider and/or College Health Services to make appropriate plans for the semester as needed.

Anyone with concerns or questions may also make use of available resources and reach out to the appropriate contacts listed here.

Students

  • Students seeking information about accommodations should contact Disability Services. (Please note that we are in the process of changing the name from AccessAbility Services to Disability Services in all systems.)
  • Other questions and concerns may be emailed to dean-students@mtholyoke.edu.

Faculty

  • Faculty with questions should contact their supervisor and supervisors should engage employees to determine what, if any, appropriate adjustments are available. A summary of these procedures can be found in this Human Resources document
  • Employees and supervisors can find information on ADA/504 Workplace Accommodations on my.mtholyoke and further resources are on the COVID-19-EE-Information page of my.mtholyoke. 
  • Provided there is no material change in the employee's needs or medical status, prior accommodations granted via the accommodation process will be honored. 
  • Faculty may also reach out to the Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculty with any questions.

Staff

  • Staff with questions should contact their supervisor and supervisors should engage employees to determine what, if any, appropriate adjustments are available. A summary of these procedures can be found in this Human Resources document
  • Employees and supervisors can find information on ADA/504 Workplace Accommodations on my.mtholyoke and further resources are on the COVID-19-EE-Information page of my.mtholyoke. 
  • Provided there is no material change in the employee's needs or medical status, prior accommodations granted via the accommodation process will be honored. 

Community members may always seek support through the ombudsperson.

Moving forward, the COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee will continue to meet regularly to monitor the COVID-19 community level for Hampshire County and recommend adjustments to policies as necessary. Please be sure to monitor your inbox, as any changes to policies will be communicated in a timely manner via email, MHC This Week and other e-newsletters. 

I thank each and every one of you for your adherence to these protocols and for your continued efforts to make Mount Holyoke College a safe, welcoming and vibrant community. In addition to the measures laid out above, we all must all take it upon ourselves to do what we can on a personal level to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This includes staying up-to-date with boosters when eligible, practicing good personal hygiene and staying home when sick. In this way, we can all help maintain the dynamic academic and residential experience that is Mount Holyoke College.

With best wishes for the rest of your summer,

Beverly Daniel Tatum
Interim President