Campus Updates

Visit the campus updates page for information on Mount Holyoke's response to the global pandemic.

Urgent health and safety updates for spring 2022

The Mount Holyoke College seal

January 13, 2022

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,

I write today to share an important update regarding the launch of the spring 2022 semester. Mount Holyoke remains committed to an in-person teaching and learning experience for our students, but the global surge of the omicron variant requires us to make several critical short-term changes to our previous plans.

Many organizations are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant. While this is true in the Mount Holyoke community, it is also important to recognize that our high vaccination rate, a booster requirement, frequent testing and masking protocols are all excellent tools in managing the current situation. Still, we must remain vigilant and be prepared for severe cases, particularly among the most vulnerable members of our community. We also must be prepared for considerably more positive cases than we are used to, as students return to campus in larger numbers. The logistics of creating a safe return and start to the semester are, as you might imagine, very complex, given the constraints of congregate housing and other campus spaces, and the impact of the virus on staffing levels at the College.

In support of our commitment both to health and safety and to in-person teaching and learning, please note the following:

  • We will shift to remote teaching and learning for the first two weeks of classes (Jan.  24 — Feb. 5). 
  • We will return to in-person classes on Monday, Feb. 7. 
  • Students’ return to residence halls will be spread out over 10 days. Students are invited to arrive as early as Jan. 18 and no later than Jan. 27, depending on their existing travel arrangements. (Students already scheduled to move to campus between Jan. 13 and Jan. 17 may still do so.)
  • All students are expected to get a COVID-19 test as close to departure as possible and to receive the results of the test prior to arriving on campus. Students having extreme difficulty obtaining a test should contact dean-students@mtholyoke.edu for guidance.
  • All students and employees are expected to comply with our vaccination and booster requirements. Information on submitting your booster documentation is included later in this message. 
  • There will be a booster clinic on campus on Jan. 29. Any student who is eligible for a booster and not yet in compliance with the mandate should plan to attend this clinic. 
  • We will continue to require on-site PCR testing for students and employees working on campus regularly.
  • We request that community members wear face coverings that consist of at least three layers (KN95 preferred). The only exception is for those masks specifically designed for accessibility purposes (e.g. accessible masks with clear panels that facilitate lip-reading in classrooms; these will also be provided). Some individuals may be required to wear KN95 masks as a result of recent COVID-19 status and/or proximity of their work to others. The College will provide KN95 masks to students and employees who need them via the testing center.

Please read the following detailed information very carefully and be certain to check your email for updates. 

Semester launch: operating level

The spring 2022 semester will begin on Jan. 24 as planned. However, due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant, effective Jan. 18 the College will once again launch the semester with special operating conditions. We anticipate this operating level to last for approximately two weeks; however, it will be extended and/or modified should public health conditions warrant. This means:

  • Classes: we will shift to remote teaching and learning for the first two weeks of classes (Jan. 24 — Feb. 5). We will return to in-person classes Monday, Feb. 7. 
  • Dining: students will take their meals to go and must eat in their rooms or outdoors beginning on Jan. 18. (No eating is permitted in public/common spaces.) The Dining Commons is closed to employees until further notice. There will be a small amount of indoor dining for students with documented accommodations.
  • All students should limit their movement off campus only to purchase necessities, to fulfill off-campus employment commitments and to attend health appointments.
  • Most campus events will be held remotely.

Move-in and student and employee testing

  • Students are invited to arrive as early as Jan. 18 and no later than Jan. 27. If students have travel arrangements or other situations that are difficult to change, please plan to arrive on campus on your existing timetable. Only students currently registered to arrive between now and Jan. 17 are approved to do so. For those of you who can easily access campus and are able to remain in your current location, we  request that you please delay your arrival to Jan. 23-27.
  • Residence life will send an updated link for move-in sign ups. Students must request a single move-in slot. Previous reservations will be honored. This is for changes only. We will aim to honor all student requests and will communicate with students directly in any cases when we are unable to do so. Students will receive sign-up information from residential life via email no later than Friday Jan. 14th at 4 pm EST. Any student experiencing extreme challenges with arrival plans should contact dean-students@mtholyoke.edu for guidance. 
  • In an effort to mitigate the number of infected students arriving on campus, all students are expected to obtain a COVID-19 test as close to departure as possible and to receive the results of the test prior to arriving on campus. Please review complete student testing information prior to arrival.
  • As a reminder, students who test positive before coming to campus must notify the College via Health Services and they will let you know when it is safe to return.
  • There will be a booster clinic on campus on Jan. 29. Any student who is eligible for a booster and not yet in compliance with the mandate should plan to attend this clinic. 
  • Students are required to test twice weekly; employees in the testing program are required to test once weekly. At this time, we are not able to extend testing to employees beyond once weekly; however, we are exploring additional opt-in opportunities for employees in our testing program. Should that option become available through our external testing partner, we will communicate with employees directly. Generally, our lab testing partner processes our PCR tests within 24-36 hours after the lab receives them. This means that community members can typically expect to receive test results within two days after testing. However, during high volume times this can take longer.These longer turnaround times also impact our ability to update the College dashboard in real time. However, we are making every effort to update the dashboard as soon as test result information is available to us. 
  • We are finalizing isolation and quarantine protocols and will share more information soon. Given the very real space constraints of our campus, we will ask students who can isolate at home to do so, we will provide isolation space to as many students as possible and some students may need to recover in place in residence halls with strict health and safety protocols.

Changes in masking protocols

Effective immediately, Mount Holyoke requests that community members wear face coverings that consist of three or more layers. The only exception is for those masks specifically designed for accessibility purposes (e.g., accessible masks with clear panels that facilitate lip-reading in classrooms; these will also be provided). The following examples meet our requirements: KN95 or KF94 masks (preferred); three-layer disposable masks; a disposable mask worn under a cloth mask; or clear masks or other face coverings provided by request via AccessAbility Services. The following do not meet our requirements: single-layer cloth masks, gaiters, bandanas, masks with exhalation valves and soiled, loose or poor-fitting face coverings or masks that need frequent adjustments.

Some individuals may be required to wear KN95 masks due to the nature of their work and/or recent COVID-19 status. Beginning Jan. 18, the College will provide KN95 masks via the testing center to students and employees who need them. As a reminder, masks must be worn indoors at all times whenever you are outside your residence hall room or private office. Detailed information on mask requirements and care will be posted soon.

Compliance with vaccine and booster requirement

To protect the health and safety of our community, Mount Holyoke College requires all community members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to receive a booster within 15 days of eligibility. Community members may document compliance beginning Jan. 18. Instructions to submit information pertaining to your immunization record and upload a copy of your vaccination card via a secure form will be emailed to students and employees on Jan. 18.

The College will host a booster clinic on Jan. 29, 2022 from 10:00 am — 2:00 pm. Any student who is eligible for a booster and has not yet received one should plan to attend this clinic. Students will receive more information from health services in advance of the clinic.

Visitors, events and travel

Buildings are closed to most external visitors. Current access will be extended to certain approved groups (job candidates and admission tours, for example). As previously shared, no external spectators at indoor athletics events are permitted through at least the end of January.

While there is no change to the College-sponsored travel policy, we encourage employees and managers to make prudent decisions regarding risk and benefits.

Outdoor spaces remain open to the public and masks are not required. However, we encourage groups gathering outdoors to mask and distance as much as possible.

 

The College’s leadership team and I thank you for your continued diligence in following the College’s health and safety guidance and remind you that each of us is personally responsible and accountable for following these practices. The College will continue to monitor the ever-changing health and safety landscape and communicate updates to the community as needed.

I must particularly thank the Health and Safety committee for their dedication and flexibility in grappling with this swiftly-shifting COVID-19 landscape. The safety and wellbeing of the entire community is at the heart of their recommendations and I thank them for their commitment. We recognize that changes such as these are designed to protect physical health, and that these measures may also impact the mental health of community members. For those who need support, please take advantage of the following resources:

  • Students can make use of the Counseling Services 24/7 hotline by calling 413-538-2037. 
  • Faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program at 888-881-5462. 

I understand these new plans will present challenges for everyone, and I know it is disappointing to have to put on hold some of our plans to be together in person. Many of these changes are  short-term measures that will move us toward that end and more safely. In gratitude for all that you are doing to keep yourself and others in our community safe and well,  and in acknowledgment of the very real challenges these changes represent,  I ask for your understanding and patience, with us and with one another,  as we all make our way through this latest shift prompted by the continued transmission and health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on staffing and operations everywhere. The more we are able to work together and in the collective interests and safety of our community, the better we will fare in navigating the challenges of this moment. 

We look forward to your safe return and to the semester ahead.

With my deepest appreciation,

Sonya