Health and Safety
Updated as of September 22, 2021
All members of the community are expected to follow COVID-19 prevention measures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All students and employees are required to provide evidence that they have been vaccinated. The College has committed to achieving as close to universal vaccination as possible within our community. As of September 7, 97.6% of employees are fully vaccinated, 1.5% have an approved exemption and .9% are in process (new hires, for example). Among students living and/or attending classes on campus, 95% are fully vaccinated, 4% (86) are partially vaccinated, and 1% (17) have received an approved exemption. An update will be shared the week of October 8, when currently partially-vaccinated individuals will have reached full vaccination status.
The College will accept all vaccines that have received full Food and Drug Administration approval or Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. These currently include:
- Pfizer BioNTech COMIRNATY, 2 doses 3 weeks apart. (This vaccine has gotten full approval from the FDA.)
- Moderna, 2 doses 4 weeks apart.
- Johnson and Johnson/Janssen, 1 dose.
- Oxford-AstraZeneca, 2 doses 6-12 weeks apart.
- Sinopharm (China), 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart.
- Covidshield Serum Institute of India, 2 doses 4-12 weeks apart.
- Sinovac CoronaVac
Safety of vaccines
The CDC reports that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, having met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards. Johns Hopkins University — an organization widely-recognized for its medical and public health expertise — has compiled information regarding COVID-19 vaccination development, safety and effectiveness and we encourage anyone who is eligible and has not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine to review this information. The recent full FDA approval of Comirnaty means that the manufacturer has submitted information that builds upon the extensive data and information previously submitted that supports the Emergency Use Authorization, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made.
Boosters and variants
The College is following the roll-out of emerging booster guidance and will share updates as they become available.
While there is still considerable uncertainty about highly transmissible variants, there is wide agreement that any seasonal or variant surges will be stronger in those states with lower vaccination rates. Higher levels of vaccination coverage now will prevent cases and save lives, regardless of how transmissible new variants may be.
Submitting vaccination documentation
For community members who have not yet submitted vaccination documentation, here is a reminder of the deadlines by which, and the ways in which, to do so:
- New, incoming students should have submitted their vaccination documentation by July 1.
- Returning students should have submitted their vaccination documentation documentation by August 1.
- Graduate students should have submitted their vaccination documentation by August 1 via the My Health Connection portal.
- Employees must submit documentation by August 13. Please visit my.mtholyoke for instructions on how to submit COVID-19 vaccination records.
International students who are unable to receive a WHO-approved vaccine prior to arrival in the United States should follow all MA Department of Public Health and CDC travel guidelines prior to arrival. Un- or partially vaccinated individuals must remain on campus for seven days, wear a mask when indoors in shared spaces until fully vaccinated (even if indoor masking protocols are again relaxed), and receive two negative COVID-19 tests (via the College’s testing program) before classes begin. This seven-day period, with the outlined protocols, satisfies the requirements for a period of restricted movement for those who are unvaccinated and aligns with the spring 2021 campus plan.
- Students: Please visit health services for instruction.
- Employees: Please visit COVID-19 vaccine information for employees for instruction (login required).
Do other institutions have COVID-19 vaccine mandates?
Institutional policies vary depending on a wide variety of factors, and each institution must make the best decision for its unique location and community. The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a list of colleges that require its students or employees to be vaccinated. This list is being refreshed constantly. (Mount Holyoke College community members who are working off campus and not using the College’s VPN client will be prompted to login with their MHC usernames and passwords when clicking this link.)
Masks are no longer required when walking outdoors while walking on the Mount Holyoke College campus, but are encouraged when physical distancing is not possible.
Certain campus events may require masks outdoors, and community members will not be allowed to participate in such events unless they have appropriate face coverings.
See the Recreation and Athletics page for information specific to athletic events.
Indoor Masking Requirements
In recognition of the increased and continuing spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant, and the evolving understanding of its transmission, the College is requiring that masks be worn indoors (whenever outside private space) by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Private space is defined as student/staff rooms in residence halls and single-occupancy offices. Other kinds of workspaces, such as open-plan environments, shared offices and cubicles, should be evaluated at the departmental level, taking into consideration whether an individual is working alone or with others.
This indoor mask requirement will be in effect until at least October 31, 2021, and will be extended should public health and/or campus conditions require it.
Masking in Dining Spaces
Masks may be removed when actively eating in dining spaces or in other indoor locations where food and beverages may be consumed. Each individual should determine for themselves their level of comfort in dining in close proximity to others. We ask that all members of our community be mindful of those around them whenever removing masks to eat in non-dining spaces, and that you adhere to all posted signs and College policies relating to the different spaces on campus.
Masking in College Vehicles
Face coverings will continue to be required for the foreseeable future in Access Ride Card vans and other shared College vehicles. These requirements align with CDC and MA DPH requirements for face masks in healthcare settings and on public transportation, rideshares, livery vehicles and in transportation hubs.
Weekly Asymptomatic Testing
Beginning August 23, weekly testing will be required for employees who are interacting closely and frequently with students and/or each other. This includes all teaching faculty and most staff.
Employees will continue to receive symptomatic testing off-campus through their own healthcare provider or other testing sites.
Employees that develop symptoms must continue to follow current College procedures: stay home, notify their supervisor, follow HR’s reporting protocols and contact their healthcare provider. Do not come to the campus testing center.
The comprehensive testing plan was developed by the COVID-19 Testing ERT Working Group. The plan and other campus procedures will be monitored and adjusted as needed, based on campus, local and regional data and public health guidance.
Our trained campus contact tracing team will work in concert with the South Hadley Department of Public Health and Health Services to identify anyone who has tested positive or been directly exposed to someone with COVID-19. All individuals in the campus community who are direct, close contacts will be contacted by the contact tracing team. Residential students that develop symptoms must stay in their room and call Health Services immediately: (413) 538-2242. Anyone that develops symptoms must wear a face covering (even if fully vaccinated) when they leave their private space.
- Employees who receive a positive COVID-19 test (via the College’s testing center or another testing outlet) should notify Human Resources. Under no circumstances should they come to campus, and they must consult with a health care provider for guidance and for clearance to return to work.
- Unvaccinated individuals (and those not fully vaccinated) who are identified as a close contact will need to quarantine.
- Fully vaccinated individuals who remain asymptomatic are not required to quarantine, but should get tested 3-5 days after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Symptomatic individuals and those who test positive will need to isolate themselves from others. Please remember that the College’s testing center is for asymptomatic testing only. If you have symptoms, do not come to our testing center.
- Students who develop symptoms will be evaluated by Health Services.
The College has designated isolation and quarantine space for students. See the COVID-19 testing for students page for details on the isolation and quarantine process for students.
The College is pleased to pilot a flexible and adaptive work model for staff employees this fall. While specific arrangements will be customized for each position, department and/or division, the intent of the pilot is to facilitate healthy integration of work and personal responsibilities while supporting Mount Holyoke’s mission, culture and operational requirements as a small, residential liberal arts college. Supervisors have received tools to assist them in planning; the documents will be published to my.mtholyoke soon. Staff employees with questions about their specific situation and/or their department’s approach should contact their supervisor, department manager or division head.
Our vibrant in-person academic, co-curricular and residential offering for undergraduates comprises many in-person interactions on campus. Given current COVID-19 trends, we recognize that some meetings may need to be conducted remotely for any number of reasons. We ask that department heads and division leaders determine the most effective strategies for non-class meeting activities. Please review the previously shared Events Oversight Committee policy for general event guidance and consult with your supervisor, department head or division leader if you have further questions.
Mount Holyoke’s outdoor grounds are currently open to the public and, in accordance with current state guidelines, no masks are required outdoors regardless of vaccination status, but are encouraged when physical distancing is not possible. Face coverings/masks are required indoors except when in a private space.
Campus guests are typically hosted by a member of the Mount Holyoke community and, while not subject to vaccine mandates, must follow all campus policies.
Guests (including alums and parents) will not be permitted to attend in-person gatherings during the first six weeks of the semester (not until Monday, October 11) with the following exceptions:
- Two guests hosted by new students and sophomore students to support their move-in process will be allowed to participate in in-person events held on move-in days.
- Five College students enrolled in MHC classes are permitted to attend co-curricular programming at the start of the semester.
- Guests are permitted to attend events at the Willits-Hallowell Conference Center.
- Guests are permitted on campus for Admission programs.
- Guests are permitted to participate in gatherings that are contracted to be held at the Equestrian Center facility and are coordinated by the professional staff.
Guests and spectators at athletic competitions
- Guests are permitted to participate in athletic competitions, following Conference policies, policy and procedures enacted by Athletics and Physical Education, and club sports policies set by the College. Guests in this context are defined as: those competing in the contest or officiating the contest including opposing student-athletes, opposing coaches, and officials.
- Spectators who are not current MHC employees or students will not be permitted until after fall break; however, a live video stream will be available for home contests.
- This does not include varsity or club team events that are of a non competitive nature.
The Mount Holyoke community must wear lanyards and display their IDs on campus.
Unvaccinated employees that travel outside Massachusetts must follow MA Department of Public Health and CDC travel guidelines, including getting a viral test one to three days before their trip, getting a viral test three to five days after traveling and quarantining for a full seven days upon their return, even if the test result is negative. If unvaccinated individuals choose not to get tested after traveling, they must quarantine for a full 10 days.
Unvaccinated students will not be allowed to travel outside Massachusetts.
The College has a multifaceted approach to safe resumption of additional in-person, campus-based operations for the coming academic year. One key element is a review of the operation and maintenance of ventilation systems (sometimes referred to as HVAC) in buildings and spaces on campus.
The Facilities Management (FM) department is responsible for the operation of buildings and has a team with five full-time staff members specifically responsible for building HVAC systems.
As we prepare for the fall, the FM staff is:
- Servicing all air handling units (AHUs) to ensure they are functioning as designed. Typically, AHUs are designed to circulate air through a space so that the air changes four to six times in an hour.
- Installing MERV 13 filters in AHUs wherever possible. MERV provides a filter efficiency measure with values ranging from 1 to 16. The CDC recommends using the highest efficiency filter possible that allows for the proper functioning of the system, and for most of our systems that efficiency number is 13.
- Adjusting air intake louvers so that the incoming fresh air stream is at the unit's highest fresh air capacity. Typical systems will have 10-20% of the circulated air coming from outside the building (fresh air).
In some locations, it may be appropriate to utilize air purifiers to improve the air quality. This may include spaces regularly shared by more than one individual and in which physical distancing guidelines cannot be maintained, mechanical ventilation is absent and there are not operable windows. FM is currently identifying classrooms and seminar rooms in need of air purifiers and will install them prior to the start of the semester. FM will also work proactively with building managers and/or department managers to identify air purifier needs in other spaces.
Over the summer, Facilities Management HVAC experts conducted careful assessment of air handlers, outside air intakes and fan coil heating and cooling units. Adjustments on mechanical ventilation units were made according to CDC guidelines. In buildings where mechanical ventilation is not present, portable air purifiers have been placed in classroom spaces.
The CDC recommends using the highest efficiency filter possible that allows for the proper functioning of the system, and for most of our systems that efficiency number is 13. Many campus air handlers already have filtration that exceeds the Merv 13 rating, and we’ve upgraded all units possible. Additionally, outside air intakes have been adjusted to increase the amount of outside fresh air being brought into the building. In buildings where mechanical ventilation is not present, portable air purifiers have been placed in classroom spaces.
Departments should not purchase individual air purifiers with College funds without appropriate review and pre-approval from Environmental Health and Safety or FM. If you have a question about your work space or a space you use on campus or would like to request an assessment related to an air purifier for a space, please contact the FM main office at (413) 538-2012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The transmission of COVID-19 is similar to that of other viral illnesses. We recommend taking preventive actions every day to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — especially after you cough and sneeze and before you eat. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Maintain 6 feet of distance and wear a face covering when required.
- If you are sick, avoid contact with others (in classes, group meetings, work settings, common areas, etc.). Staff members should not come to work.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or sleeve or with a tissue, and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched, including laptops and mobile devices. LITS recommends using damp antimicrobial wipes, such as Clorox or alcohol wipes to disinfect your phone, laptop, mouse, keyboard and tablet. Wring out the wipe before you clean to prevent liquid getting into devices.
As we return to in-person study and gatherings this fall, we will all be making decisions about how we interact with others. While distancing may not always be possible, it is important to respect the choices that others in our community make about physical contact and masking. An easy way to communicate your comfort level for interacting with others on campus is to wear one of three color-coded wristbands.
What the wristbands mean:
- Wearing a GREEN wristband means that you are comfortable around others.
- Wearing a YELLOW wristband means that you are comfortable talking but not touching.
- Wearing a RED wristband means that you would like others to respect your space.
All members of the Mount Holyoke community are invited to participate in this program. Wristbands will be made available to students during Orientation. They will also be available for faculty, staff and students to pick up in Blanchard beginning on August 30.
The wristbands are an optional tool, and participating in the program is not mandatory. However, whether or not you choose to wear a wristband, please make sure you are paying attention to and respecting the boundaries of those who do.