Further health and safety updates and reminders for spring 2022

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,

We write today to provide additional guidance regarding our spring semester. These are challenging times and we are doing all we can to answer your questions, monitor the health and safety landscape and provide a responsible and smooth semester launch. We have aimed to summarize important actions and updates. Nonetheless, we ask you to review this message in its entirety.

Important actions for students

  • Register for a single move-in slot right away. Students who have not reserved a move-in slot at least 48 hours in advance of their arrival will not be permitted to move in. Please review the “student arrival and move-in” section of this letter for more important details.
  • If you are eligible, register online for the January 29 on-campus booster clinic.
  • Complete the vaccination and booster attestation in my.mtholyoke (see below).

Important actions for employees and students

  • By January 24, log into my.mtholyoke.edu, follow the link under “Self Service” and complete the “MHC COVID-19 Vaccination & Booster Attestation” form. The form will collect all vaccination information and permit the secure upload of your vaccination card(s). 
  • All community members should complete this form by January 24, 2022 regardless of booster status — even if they have previously provided the information to Health Services or Human Resources. Upon receipt of the booster, individuals will need to login and update their information.
  • Priority for the booster clinic will be given to students and registration for any remaining appointments will open to employees on January 27.

Updates and reminders

Isolation protocols

Following careful evaluation of changes in public health guidance, data related to campus transmission and review of facilities, we have updated our isolation protocols for students who test positive for COVID-19. In addition to adding campus isolation spaces, we have also made several key updates:

  • Students who currently live off campus will isolate off campus.
  • Students who live within a three-hour driving distance and can travel by private vehicle will be asked to isolate at home. If they cannot, there will be options for them to isolate on campus.
  • Students living on campus in singles will isolate in their own rooms.
  • Students living in doubles, triples or quads will isolate in campus isolation spaces, unless their roommate(s) has/have recovered from COVID-19 within the past 90 days. Students will be contacted to make isolation plans, and options may include Willits or campus apartments. 

Understandably, these isolation protocols — necessary to prioritize those students most in need of support —  will impact other facets of residence hall life such as bathroom use. More information for impacted students is forthcoming. 

Campus movement and dining 

  • Residential students should limit their movement off campus only to purchase necessities, to fulfill off-campus employment commitments and to attend health appointments. (A small number of exemptions are addressed below.)
  • Most campus events will be held remotely. We will share any changes to the event policy with the community.
  • Generally, employees and students may not eat in public spaces as we launch the semester.
  • Students will take their meals to go and must eat in their rooms or outdoors. (No eating is permitted in public/common spaces.)
  • The Dining Commons is closed to employees until further notice.
  • There will be some indoor dining available to students with documented accommodations.
  • Students working on campus during meal times should follow the same eating guidelines as employees do and should discuss those arrangements with their supervisors. Generally, individuals should eat alone in a private space to avoid unmasked indoor interactions.

Classes (updated information)

  • We will shift to remote teaching and learning for the first two weeks of classes (January 24 — February 5). We plan to return to in-person classes Monday, February 7. 
  • Students are expected to attend these classes from their residence hall rooms. If this is not possible, other campus spaces may have limited availability. These spaces include some classrooms, Williston Memorial Library, Blanchard Hall and residence hall common rooms.
  • Students should resort to using these spaces only if absolutely necessary and should remember to maintain a reasonable distance from others while in these spaces. This will not only mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but will also control noise levels for their peers. Students should bring headphones if using these spaces. As a reminder, classrooms are cleaned daily.
  • Students taking classes at other Five College campuses hosting in-person classes are  expected to attend in person. Please refer to the “Classes on other campuses and teacher licensure program” section in this letter for more information.

Please read the below information carefully and continue to monitor your email for further updates. The campus updates page is also an excellent resource for staying informed of the latest health and safety news.

Student arrival and move-in

Student move-in is underway, and all students are expected to arrive no later than January 27. We understand that because classes will not be in person until February 7, some students may not wish to return to campus until then. However, students need to return with enough time to re-enter the College’s testing program and obtain at least two negative test results before the start of in-person classes. Because we anticipate a higher-than-usual number of positive cases upon arrival, and in order to ensure a return to in-person classes on February 7, it is imperative that we  accommodate required testing and isolation policies in a manner that will not overwhelm our limited testing resources and facilities. Any student experiencing extreme challenges with arrival plans should contact dean-students@mtholyoke.edu for guidance. 

Classes on other campuses and teacher licensure program

We recognize that some Mount Holyoke College students are registered to take classes at other colleges within the Five College Consortium. University of Massachusetts Amherst and Hampshire College are starting their semesters in person and Smith College will return to in-person classes January 31, a week before our scheduled return to in-person classes. While the current operating level does dictate that students should limit off-campus movement, students taking classes at these other campuses will be permitted and are expected to attend these classes in person. Students should not expect special arrangements for remote or hybrid learning on other campuses. The PVTA will begin following its regular schedule on Monday, January 24. If a Mount Holyoke student has difficulty making it to a first class, they should reach out directly to the UMass Amherst or Hampshire College faculty instructor. 

Additionally, students working in our undergraduate Education program and engaged in the 2022 baccalaureate practicum may also leave campus for their K-12 classroom placements.

Isolation procedures

Earlier this month, we updated our quarantine and isolation timelines to reflect current CDC guidance. Along with these new guidelines, Mount Holyoke’s vaccination and booster requirement/rates suggest that far fewer community members will need to quarantine than in the past. While we hope this is not the case, given omicron's high rates of transmission, it is reasonable to expect that our dedicated isolation space will be constrained at certain points, particularly as students arrive for the spring semester. Therefore, we have made important adjustments to prioritize those students who are most at risk and/or who do not have off-campus options for isolation.

To that end, the following isolation procedures will take effect immediately:

  • All students in isolation will get their food to go via the patio entrance to the Beacon room (where a special food set-up will be provided) and return to their isolation room to eat. Detailed instructions will be provided to students required to isolate.
  • Plans are in place to support sick students who are isolating and need assistance obtaining food.
  • Students in isolation are required to wear KN95 masks at all times, even if outside. KN95 masks will be provided by the College.
  • Students in isolation will need to communicate with their professors regarding their absence from class.

The following isolation procedures will take effect Monday, January 24:

  • Students who currently live off campus will isolate off campus.
  • Students who live within a three-hour driving distance and can travel by private vehicle will be asked to isolate at home. If they cannot, there will be options for them to isolate on campus.
  • Students living in campus singles will isolate in their own rooms.
  • Students living in doubles, triples or quads will isolate in campus isolation spaces, depending on individual circumstances. 
  • All students who test positive will be contacted to make isolation plans.

Detailed instructions will be provided directly to students who need to isolate, including more information about bathroom use for those isolating in residence halls. 

Visitors, events and travel

Buildings are closed to most external visitors. Current access will be extended to certain approved groups (vendors, 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.

The College’s current event policy is unchanged; however, it may be updated as campus conditions warrant.

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.

Helpful links:

  • The COVID-19 Dashboard for current operating levels and our testing results dashboard.
  • The testing center website is the best source for the Center’s most up to date operating hours. Beginning next week, the regular hours for the Spring Semester are 8:00 am—5:30 pm, Monday through Friday. The testing center follows the College’s holiday, break and adverse weather closing and delay schedules.

Students should review the Spring 2022 Student Return Site and be in touch with the appropriate department with questions.

Other resources

Those with a residential address should be aware that they can now receive up to four free at-home COVID-19 tests from covidtests.gov. Please note that using at-home tests will not exempt MHC community members from participating in the College’s testing program.

Beginning on January 15, 2022, eligible costs of up to eight FDA-authorized, rapid, at-home COVID tests per member per month will be covered for those enrolled in a Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. Please visit Blue Cross Blue Shield's page for program details and logistics.

We thank you for your patience and your continued diligence in following the College’s health and safety protocols. Further information will be shared as we have it, so please remain vigilant and keep an eye on Mount Holyoke College This Week newsletters and other important email updates. 

— The COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee

Paul Kandel, Associate Vice President for Strategic Projects (Chair)
Lindsay Adkins, Production Coordinator, Communications and Marketing
Josh Dufresne, Assistant Director, Public Safety and Service
Cheryl Flynn, Director, College Health Services
Gary Gillis, Associate Dean of Faculty
Shannon Gurek, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer (Cabinet liaison)
Marcella Runell Hall, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students (Cabinet liaison)
Kassandra Jolley, Vice President for College Relations (Cabinet liaison)
Lori Smith, Director, Environmental Health & Safety
Imad Zubi, Director of Auxiliary Services