Campus Updates

Visit the campus updates page for information on Mount Holyoke's response to the global pandemic. The Opening the Gates site also contains details about the fall semester. 

Mount Holyoke College
Opening the Gates

Student Testing, Quarantine & Isolation and Contact Tracing

Updated as of September 9, 2021

Compliance

All students, residential and commuter, must test in the MHC testing program twice per week, with tests three days apart whenever possible. We recommend students adopt a Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday schedule. You do not need to sign up in advance! Visit the testing center webpage for more information.

Students temporarily exempted from testing due to a history of COVID-19 infection are monitored and advised directly by the health services and testing center staff.

Failure to comply with testing protocols will result in a conduct process with outcomes including social probation up to removal from housing and/or the College. Participation in the testing program is critical to the College’s health and safety plans and non-compliance is a very serious matter. All students agreed to abide by all aspects of these Community Compacts: residential compact, commuter compact.

Test results & notification

  • Generally, Broad Institute (MHC’s COVID-19 testing lab) processes PCR tests within one to two days days.This means that community members can typically expect to get your test results within two days after testing; however, during high volume times it can take longer. Timing of result notification is directly impacted by the volume at the Broad lab — we generally experience slower result notifications at the beginning of the semester, for example. 
  • Email notifications are sent automatically for all negative tests, directly from Broad Institute via their “CareEvolve” platform. While the platform continues to be improved, those notifications can sometimes get caught in email filters, so everyone should please check their email spam folders! 
  • If a COVID-19 test is positive, Health Services will phone directly. Please update cell phone numbers at the testing center or on the CareEvolve profile. If the College does not have a cell phone on file, Health Services will contact via email. Occasionally, test results are returned as “invalid” or “test not performed.” This is neither a positive nor a negative result; it simply means you need to repeat the test. If several of these occur in a row, Testing Center personnel may offer a refresher on proper specimen collection.

Quarantine & Isolation

Students testing positive for COVID-19, and those with COVID-19 symptoms awaiting PCR test results, will move to isolation housing. Rooms on both the Mount Holyoke and Hampshire campuses have been reserved for this purpose.

Students who are close contacts but not yet fully vaccinated will need to move to quarantine housing on the Mount Holyoke campus.

Commuter students who need to isolate or quarantine are expected to do so in their off-campus residences. Residential students who live regionally may opt to isolate at home if they have private transportation to travel home.

Isolation

  • Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Individuals who have symptoms, regardless of the results of a rapid test, must isolate pending a negative PCR test collected at Health Services at the time of symptom evaluation. This includes: symptomatic individuals and students who are identified as a close contact of someone testing positive for COVID-19 and who develop any COVID-19 symptoms in the 14 days following last exposure.

  • Generally, isolation lasts about 10 days following symptom onset for those with a positive COVID 19 test or following the date of the positive test for those without symptoms.
  • People who are symptomatically ill with COVID-19 may need to isolate a bit longer than 10 days if their symptoms are not improving; this is rarely the case for those with mild illnesses.
  • People who are being evaluated for infection based on symptoms who do not yet have a positive test are placed in isolation until their PCR test results are negative; if the test is positive, they will remain in isolation for the 10-day duration from symptom onset.

  • Generally, Health Services notifies students via phone if they test positive for COVID-19 in the campus asymptomatic testing program. Students are contacted between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm.
    • Symptomatic individuals  awaiting results of a PCR test will receive  isolation guidance during the clinical assessment at the Health Center clinic.
  • Health Services informs the Quarantine & Isolation (Q&I) Coordinator, who arranges isolation housing. Q&I staff phones the student to share details about isolation room assignment, meal delivery while in isolation and support resources. Details are emailed to the student’s Mount Holyoke account.
    • The Q&I team will know if a microwave or refrigerator is available in the assigned isolation space. 
    • Students who may have additional needs should share those needs with the Q&I team.
  • If the student is in their residence hall room when notified, they will gather their belongings, sufficient for a 10-day stay. Please review “What to bring to isolation/quarantine.” Students in isolation will not have access to laundry facilities. 
    • Students may be notified of the need to isolate when they are not in their rooms. So we encourage every student to have a “to go” bag with essentials in their room —clothes, toiletries, any medication, comfort items, etc.
    • Students with symptoms going to Health Services may require isolation are encouraged to bring their “to go” bag with them.

  • Health Services phones students each day while in isolation, to check on health status and symptoms. 
    • They are also the ones who will share PCR test results (for those in isolation housing based on symptoms) and will “clear” students when ready for release.
    • If needed, a Health Services clinician may make a “isolation house call” for a medical assessment if health status warrants.
  • The Q&I team shares a list of contacts and resources for various needs that may arise during the isolation stay; they are also available to help coordinate extra supplies that may be needed.
  • Academic deans are notified of a student's expected absence from class; the deans will communicate this absence to the relevant professors, and can facilitate options to stay as up to date with academic responsibilities as the student’s health permits.
  • While there is no consistent remote learning option for all classes, professors have worked to create some flexibility and options to help students who must miss class maintain their academic progress.
  • The Division of Student Life staff will connect with students to offer emotional support.
    • Students can also access mental health care virtually via a telemental health visit with a clinician from the MHC Counseling Service, while in isolation. Students can schedule online or phone CS directly at 413-538-2037.

Quarantine

  • Since vaccinations are available, only close contacts who are not yet fully vaccinated must quarantine after a known or possible exposure.
    • “Close contact” is defined as more than 15 minutes accumulated over a 24 hour period within 6 feet of a person infected with COVID-19.
    • “Fully vaccinated” is defined as those who have completed a WHO &/or FDA authorized COVID-19 vaccine regimen at least 2 weeks ago.
  • Students who are identified as “not fully vaccinated close contacts” by the MHC contact tracing team will be notified by phone (or email if a current phone number is not available).
  • If a student is notified by someone outside MHC as being a close contact (i.e. family or friend outside MHC, or a contact tracer from a health department), they should call Health Services during business hours to discuss the situation and take appropriate safety precautions. CHS will help determine if quarantining is necessary.

  • The CDC offers a few options for the duration of quarantine for close contacts: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html 
  • MHC’s protocol is the “test out” option which is generally seven full days of quarantining.
    • Students will be tested in their quarantine housing space by a staff member from Health Services or the Testing Program. 
    • This will occur between day five and seven of quarantine.
    • If the PCR test is negative, students will be released from quarantine on day 8.

  • The process is essentially the same as for isolation.
    • Students who are noted to be a close contact of a COVID-19 infected individual and are not fully vaccinated will be notified by Health Services &/or the Contact Tracing Team.
    • For residential students living on MHC or Hampshire College campuses, quarantine housing will be assigned at MHC by the Q&I team.
    • Students will be moved into quarantine housing following the same procedures as for isolation. We advise bringing a similar “to go” bag with essentials for approximately one week’s time.
  • Students who reside off campus will be asked to quarantine at home.
  • Students who live regionally may opt to quarantine at home if private transportation is available.

  • They have the same supports as students in isolation have.
  • Health Services phones students approximately every other day while in quarantine. 
    • Students who develop symptoms while in quarantine will be tested at their quarantine space by a CHS staff member.
    • If no symptoms develop, testing will occur on a weekday between five-seven days  after the exposure.
    • A Health Services staff member will review the PCR test results and release a student from quarantine on day 8 if the PCR test taken on/after day 5 is negative.
  • The Q&I team shares a list of contacts and resources for various needs that may arise during the isolation stay; they are also available to help coordinate extra supplies that may be needed.
  • Academic deans are notified of a student's expected absence from class; they will communicate this absence to the relevant professors, and can facilitate options to stay as up to date with academic responsibilities as the student’s health permits.
  • While there is no consistent remote learning option for all classes, professors have worked to create some flexibility and options to help students who must miss class to maintain academic progress.
  • The Division of Student Life staff will connect with students to offer emotional support.
    • Students can also access mental health care virtually via a telemental health visit with a clinician from the MHC Counseling Service, while in isolation. Students can schedule online or phone CS directly at 413-538-2037.

Contact Tracing

After a student is identified as having a positive COVID-19 test and moves into isolation, contact tracing of that individual begins.

  • A member of the Contact Tracing Team will speak with the student via phone to collect detailed information about their health, vaccination status, housing situation, behaviors and activities outside of academics. They will also ask for course enrollment, attendance and the structure of the classroom space/experience.
  • Close contacts are identified by this process.
  • Class rosters are collected to identify potential close contacts from the classroom, lab and/or studio experiences.
  • Health Services, in conjunction with Human Resources, will confirm the vaccination status of all close contacts and possible close contacts, as their vaccination status determines their need to quarantine or not.

The management of close contacts depends on vaccine status, risk level of exposure and symptom status.

Not all close contacts will be required to quarantine. In general:

  • Close contacts who are not yet fully vaccinated are phoned by the Contact Tracing team, and quarantine processes are initiated.
  • Fully vaccinated close contacts who have high risk exposure (roommates, or those with prolonged unmasked contact) will be contacted by phone, and offered rapid COVID-19 testing within 24 hours of notification. If this rapid test is negative, they will resume standard "guidance for fully vaccinated close contacts.”
  • Fully vaccinated close contacts who do not have high-risk exposure (i.e. classmates, professors, attendees at a common event where people are masked) will be notified via email with instructions for monitoring. 
    • Fully vaccinated close contacts (and possible close contacts) do NOT need to quarantine. Professors can teach in person; students can (and should!) attend class.
    • We encourage additional attention to safety behaviors such as masking, physical distancing when outside class, eating alone or distanced, hand hygiene and monitoring symptoms.
    • Fully vaccinated close contacts must test at day 3-5, following last exposure, at the MHC testing center. 

  • Continue to monitor your own health and alert Health Services if you become symptomatic.
  • Otherwise, continue to engage in practices that help to mitigate spread: hand washing, masking and maintaining distance from others when possible.
  • Remember: 
    • Unvaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts are quarantined. Those who are fully vaccinated have a much lower risk of contracting COVID-19, even with the delta variant’s prevalence in the US. 
    • MHC’s masking policies offer additional protection from spreading or contracting COVID-19.
    • Our testing strategy helps identify asymptomatic cases before they become symptomatic.