Indoor mask mandate extended
Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum updates the community on the College’s decision to maintain its indoor mask mandate until further notice and plans for vaccine clinics.
Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,
As we approach September 30, the date at which our indoor mask mandate is set to expire, I am writing with an update. I am sorry to say that because of the relatively high confirmed COVID-19 case counts on campus (approximately 50 per week since the start of the semester) we will need to continue our indoor mask mandate until further notice. While I am eager to move us from a mask mandate to a “masks welcome and encouraged” policy in all campus indoor spaces, it is clear that the current levels of infection have taxed our campus health care system and residential services to the limit. As is the case across the country, Mount Holyoke is coping with position vacancies which are proving hard to fill. Making a change to the mask policy at a time when some of our campus operations are understaffed and overtaxed would be imprudent.
Of the COVID-19 containment tools available to us, well-fitting KN95 masks and up-to-date vaccinations are the most effective. So in addition to maintaining the indoor mask mandate, the College is planning to host both a COVID-19 and an influenza vaccine clinic on campus. The flu vaccine clinic will take place on October 5. The date for the COVID-19 booster clinic is still to be determined, pending vendor availability. We strongly recommend that all eligible students, faculty and staff who have not already received their influenza and/or bivalent COVID-19 booster participate. More details on vaccine clinics will be shared by human resources and the dean of students when available. In the meantime, vaccinations are also available on Thursdays and Fridays at the University of Massachusetts Amherst COVID-19 vaccine clinic (accessible by PVTA).
The widespread availability of vaccines, boosters and medications have taken us to a new phase of managing COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which updated its guidelines on August 11, 2022, asymptomatic testing in community settings is no longer recommended. Consistent with that recommendation, Mount Holyoke is not mandating asymptomatic testing. Fundamentally we are a community that relies on each other to act responsibly. Anyone who is aware that they might have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should self-test and there are rapid test kits available on campus for residential students. They can be obtained at the Division of Student Life suite (Blanchard 205), and more detailed information will be sent to students via Dean’s Corner later this week.
There are immunocompromised members of our community who have special health concerns and we have a process in place to accommodate those needs. Students should contact the Dean of the College at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about accommodations. Employees should refer to this Human Resources document.
Though we are not there yet, we will eventually shift from a pandemic to an endemic phase. As we do, we will also need to evolve our institutional responsibility for COVID-19 protections and expand our individual responsibility — eventually making our own decisions about whether to remain masked in public spaces or not, both on campus and off. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor and report the number of confirmed cases on campus. After the latest booster vaccines have been made available, I am hopeful that our case numbers will go down and we will be able to revisit our indoor masking policy. Until then, please know that we regularly seek guidance from public health experts and always endeavo to keep the best interests of the entire community in mind. I want to express my appreciation for everyone’s patience and cooperation during this time of transition.
Beverly Daniel Tatum