Updates to COVID-19 guidelines, May 31, 2023
The COVID-19 public health emergency orders ended in Massachusetts and across the country on May 11, 2023. Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students, Marcella Runell, writes to the community on behalf of the Senior Team with updates to the College’s COVID-19 guidelines.
I am writing to you today with an update from the College’s Health and Safety Committee (HSC) about Mount Holyoke’s COVID-19 protocols. Please be reminded that the Health and Safety Committee is composed of representatives from across our community, including students.
The COVID-19 public health emergency orders ended in Massachusetts and across the country on May 11, 2023. The focus of the College’s HSC for the spring semester was to research, discuss and propose a series of COVID-19 guidelines that will serve our community moving forward. The Committee considered available medical data, state and local regulations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the American College Health Association. The Senior Team approved the HSC’s suggestions, which are outlined below.
Beginning July 1, 2023, students who test positive for COVID-19 no longer need to notify Health Services and employees who test positive no longer need to notify Human Resources. As such, the College will no longer report or track COVID-19 case counts.
However, students with symptoms or who have been exposed will still be able to make an appointment to test at Health Services. Costs associated with COVID-19 testing will be billed in the same manner as other medical testing.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 should follow the below guidelines (information for students with accommodations related to COVID-19 is just below this section):
- All residential students will isolate in their residence hall room, regardless of roommate status; those who live off campus will isolate off-campus until protocols permit return.
- Residential students who are able to safely travel off campus for isolation are permitted to do so, but cannot return to campus until their isolation period has ended.
- The College will follow the public health guidance for isolation recommendations regarding COVID-19 infection.
- At present, people who test positive must isolate in place for five days following the onset of symptoms or, if they did not have symptoms, the date of the positive test they took.
- If they are clinically improving during days 6–10, students may follow “heightened safety precautions,” including wearing a KN95 mask outside their residence hall room and continuing to get food to-go and eating alone.
- Classes: students are not permitted to attend classes during their five days of strict isolation; they may attend classes during days 6–10 if their health permits, but are required to wear a KN95 mask whenever outside their residence hall room or home. Note: students in classes with faculty or fellow students with COVID-19 accommodations may be prohibited from returning to the classroom until day 11.
- Bathroom usage in residence halls: residential students who are isolating in place are permitted to use common bathrooms to use a toilet as long as they wear a KN95 mask. Suggested times will be posted for the use of residence hall bathrooms for hygiene that requires the removal of a mask (brushing teeth, showering, etc.) for the full 10 days following COVID-19 infection.
- Dining: Residential students will get to-go food from the Dining Commons to bring to a private space to eat for the full 10 days following COVID-19 infection. They must wear a KN95 mask when not eating and when outside of their residence hall room. For information about USEFULL to-go containers, please review the Dining webpage.
- Mail: Residential students can pick up mail from the Mail and Copy Center as their health permits, but must wear a KN95 mask to do so for the full 10 days following COVID-19 infection.
- Students who have questions or want health support should contact Health Services by calling 413-538-2121 during business hours and asking to speak with a nurse. Urgent health needs are supported after hours via the contracted answering service; please do not phone the answering service for public health protocol questions. Please note, Health Services is closed for the summer and anticipates reopening August 21, 2023.
Students seeking accommodations related to COVID-19 (i.e. those with compromised immune systems) should submit the necessary medical documentation to Disability Services as soon as possible.
- Students with accommodations related to COVID-19 can contact the Office of Residential Life for temporary alternate housing placements if their roommate tests positive for COVID-19.
- The Office of Disability Services can also support ensuring routine masking in classrooms that have a student or faculty member with accommodations related to COVID-19.
Guests staying overnight in residence hall rooms will be required to register via a form that will be available on the College’s Residential Life Embark page in mid-August. However, they will no longer need to be vaccinated or have received a recent negative COVID-19 test result.
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should follow the sick and personal leave policy guidelines in the Staff Handbook and notify their supervisor or follow the procedures established by their department when they know they cannot report to work. In accordance with Massachusetts public health guidance, employees who test positive must isolate in place for five days following the onset of symptoms or, if they did not have symptoms, the date of the positive test they took. If employees are asymptomatic or their symptoms are improving during days 6–10, they may leave isolation if they wear a mask and eat alone. If they have had two negative tests taken 48 hours apart, they do not need to follow these extra precautions.
Employees seeking COVID-19-related accommodations should notify their supervisor or Lateisha Rainey of the Human Resources Department. Lateisha can be reached at 413-538-3193 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also want you to know that starting July 1:
- Mount Holyoke will follow Massachusetts guidance for immunizations required for higher education institutions –– we strongly recommend that all members of our community remain up-to-date with the COVID-19 vaccine series and get a booster shot annually, but an initial vaccination series and booster will no longer be required.
- Note: Currently, 98% of our College community is vaccinated, and there is a 73% vaccination rate in Hampshire County (source: Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts).
- The College will no longer supply KN95 masks or COVID-19 rapid test kits. When students are preparing to return to campus and start the fall 2023 semester, they should plan accordingly by packing or ordering any KN95 masks and/ or rapid tests.
- The Safety Net Fund will be available for eligible students in the fall of 2023 to apply for funding to purchase KN95 masks and rapid tests. Limited supplies are available in the Division of Student Life suite over the summer of 2023.
- With the end of the public health emergency, many COVID-19-related costs have formally shifted to health insurance plans. All community members should check with their plan's benefits to see if coverage is provided for purchasing rapid antigen tests.
I encourage everyone to bookmark the MHC COVID-19 Health and Safety, COVID-19 Updates for Students and Student COVID-19 Protocols websites. Please note that the latter will no longer be active starting July 1, 2023. Students may also email the Division of Student Life at email@example.com with any questions, and employees should email Human Resources at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
on behalf of the Senior Team