Updates to dining and isolation policies

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Note: this advisory has been updated as of February 16, 2022

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,

As we look forward to next week’s return to in-person classes, we thank you for your patience and cooperation with the measures we implemented, such as remote classes and a staggered return to campus, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during our semester launch. 

We write today to share key updates regarding our isolation protocols, announce changes to dining on campus and to provide information regarding our contact tracing policies. These protocols have been considered very carefully, and we hope that our collective commitment to all campus health and safety measures will not only diminish the spread of COVID-19 on campus but will also preserve limited space and resources for those in our community who are most vulnerable and most in need of support.

These updated practices are in line with (or go beyond) public health guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and The American College Health Association, and aim to maximize use of the College’s facilities and people in support of delivering an exceptional residential liberal arts experience as safely as possible at this time.

On Monday, February 7, we will resume in-person classes. The College’s operating level will remain at “Semester Launch”  through at least February 13 in accordance with the following measures:

  • Other non-instructional interactions, meetings and events should be held remotely when possible.
  • Residential students should continue to limit their movement off campus only to purchase necessities, fulfill off-campus employment commitments, attend Five College classes and to attend health appointments.
  • Buildings remain closed to most external visitors, with exceptions for certain approved groups such as job candidates, admissions tours and vendors. 

Dining updates

Effective Monday, February 7 the Dining Commons will be open to students for in-person dining starting with breakfast. Additionally, College community members may return to eating in public spaces. Faculty and staff are not yet allowed to access the Dining Commons; we anticipate that access being granted on February 14. 

Masks will still be required when not eating, and physical distancing is encouraged when possible. Anyone who is adhering to heightened safety measures and strict masking because they tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days will still be required to eat in private, apart from others.  

Isolating in singles

Effective Monday, February 7, students who live in singles and test positive for COVID-19 on that day or thereafter will not isolate themselves in their own rooms. Instead, those who cannot isolate off campus at home will be moved to designated on-campus isolation space.

The practice of isolation in singles at the launch of the semester ensured effective management of limited isolation space during a surge in positive cases (the highest in two years in our community). As the semester continues, a return to this strategy may be necessary and we will communicate any protocol changes with students directly as soon as possible.

Isolation timeframes (updated)

As of Monday, February 7, the following key changes to our isolation procedures will go into effect:

  • Antigen testing. Students who have been fever-free for 24 hours and whose symptoms are improving will be administered a rapid antigen test on day six of isolation. (A reminder that the date a positive test was taken is considered day zero.) If the test is positive, another will be administered 48 hours later. If the test is negative, they will return to their residence hall and will be expected to observe heightened safety measures through day 10. Failure to do so will be considered a violation of the Community Compact.
  • Faculty and staff who have been fever-free for 24 hours and whose symptoms are improving will coordinate with the contact tracing team on day five to take a rapid antigen test on day six of isolation. If the test is negative, they may return to work on campus that day (day six) and must observe heightened safety measures as a condition of employment. If the test is positive, they will need to remain off campus and test again 48 hours later.
  • Any campus community member who is instructed to observe heightened safety measures will be required to refrain from any unmasked activity on campus –– except for eating (in private and apart from others) and, for students, sleeping and certain hygiene activities –– through day 10. Students will also be required to continue getting their meals from the same designated area and entrance at the Dining Commons they used during isolation through day 10.

Contact tracing 

Many state and local organizations have recently moved away from contact tracing, and Massachusetts has ended its contact tracing program. The American College Health Association currently recommends testing, masking, vaccines and boosters to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses. Mount Holyoke does have all these measures in place. Nevertheless, the College will conduct contact tracing efforts as follows:

  • Individuals who test positive through our program will continue to be notified by a member of the Mount Holyoke contact tracing team. Interviews will be conducted to identify a list of close contacts in the Mount Holyoke community. Particular emphasis will be placed on identifying unmasked contacts (e.g. roommates and dining partners) as well as those we know to be more vulnerable because of a vaccine exemption. 
  • All identified campus close contacts will be notified via email or phone with specific instructions on quarantine, follow-up testing protocols and any next steps that should be taken.


These are unprecedented times and we do not underestimate the challenges and extra responsibilities facing our community members. We understand that the duration of this pandemic and the seemingly never-ending need to adjust and adapt (at school, at home and at work) has many of us feeling anxious, frustrated, confused and even angry. As a collegiate community, we are not alone in managing these difficult challenges and the grace and understanding we have afforded one another to date has been inspiring. A transition to more normal operations is dependent on each one of us doing our part to uphold the Community Compacts (residential/commuter) and health and safety protocols. Please be reminded that reports of non-compliance can be made via the information report.  

— 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