Indoor mask mandate will be lifted October 14

Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum updates the community on the College’s decision to lift its indoor mask mandate at the close of business on October 14, 2022.

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,

As we approach fall break, I am writing to let you know the good news that our COVID-19 case count on campus has dropped dramatically, from a high of more than 50 active cases among students earlier in the month to just 18 last week and only a handful of new positive cases reported so far this week. A drop of similar magnitude is being reported at UMass Amherst. Given this encouraging progress, I am pleased to announce that our mask indoors mandate will end at the close of business on Friday, October 14, 2022. However, we will remain a “masks welcome” community so that anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask to reduce exposure to airborne infectious diseases should feel free to do so.

Why wait until October 14? As many students prepare to leave campus during the fall break, we can anticipate that we might see a bump in our numbers right after their return. To mitigate the impact of that bump on our campus health services and residential operations, it is prudent to continue masking for a few days after students return.

What about the new bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccination? The College strongly recommends that anyone eligible for this booster should get one. Increasing the level of vaccination boosters will also help us lower the number and/or severity of cases on campus. Due to high demand, the first available opportunity for an on-campus vaccination clinic is mid-November. More details about that clinic will be forthcoming. However, it is not necessary to wait until then. The new booster vaccine is available at pharmacies in the area, including at local Big Y and CVS outlets as well as at the University of Massachusetts Amherst COVID-19 vaccine clinic (accessible by PVTA) on Thursdays and Fridays. The Division of Student Life is organizing shuttle transportation to UMASS and to CVS to facilitate student access and will share information with residential students directly when available. I urge those who are leaving campus to check with their local pharmacy about making a booster appointment over fall break.

As discussed in previous communications, the widespread availability of vaccines, boosters and medications have taken us to a new phase of dealing with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the new tools available to us for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic. Given the now endemic nature of COVID-19, it is likely that there will be some number of active cases for the foreseeable future. However, since COVID-19 vaccinations are and have been required at Mount Holyoke, the risk of severe illness is quite low. I am hopeful that once we transition to “masks welcome” that we will be able to maintain that policy for the duration of the semester, even though we will again break in November, keeping in mind that we all have the option to mask whenever we feel the need to give ourselves extra protection.

As we shift from a pandemic to an endemic phase, we also need to shift from institutional responsibility for COVID-19 protections to individual responsibility and make our own decisions about whether to remain masked in public spaces or not, both on campus and off. We are a community that relies on each other to act responsibly. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or is symptom-free but still recovering from a recent infection should wear a mask, as recommended by the CDC.

I know that there are a small number of immunocompromised members of our community who have special health concerns. We have a process in place to accommodate those needs, which sometimes includes masking requirements in classrooms. Please know that we will continue to make those individualized accommodations as needed. Students should contact the Dean of the College at for more information about accommodations. Employees should refer to this Human Resources document.

I want to again express my appreciation for everyone’s patience and cooperation during this time of transition.


Beverly Daniel Tatum
Interim President