Update on COVID-19 Cases and Policy Changes

Dear Wheaton Community,

We are writing today to provide an update on the current COVID-19 uptick that we have seen among our community and in the New England region. 

We would first like to express our appreciation and highlight that more than 1500 community members took part in on-campus testing between Monday and Tuesday. This is our largest two-day testing total and this adherence to the return to campus testing recommendation has helped us detect the presence of the virus early upon returning from break and will help us mitigate the spread. 

As we have seen an uptick in positive cases via on-campus testing, off-campus testing and in the local Norton community throughout the past week, the COVID-19 Task Force has decided to institute the following protocol changes, effective immediately:

  • College-sponsored indoor events, meetings, or gatherings cannot exceed 200 people, with no exceptions. The previous 50 percent capacity guideline that allowed for events at Chapel, Chase Dining, Clark Recreation Center, Emerson, Haas, and Weber Theatre to be over 200 people will be suspended through the end of the semester.
  • Resident students may not visit other residence halls. Many of the positive cases have been traced back to informal gatherings and as such, we are further restricting the guest policy for the remainder of the semester. Visitation is limited to the residence (hall or house) where you live. Social interaction may continue in dining spaces and college-sponsored gatherings, with adherence to physical distancing and masking requirements. Residents in the same residence hall may continue to use common spaces to meet and socialize. Residents visiting other residents of the same building may not exceed more than one guest per resident assigned to the room. Commuter and off-campus students are not permitted in the residence halls. Students who must meet for academic purposes are encouraged to do so in the library or other communal spaces that allow for physical distancing.

Contact tracing has shown that the current cases within our community were due to a mix of off-campus and residential informal indoor gatherings prior to and during the Thanksgiving holiday break. Many also took the opportunity to connect with loved ones but may have been exposed during holiday celebrations. The incubation period for COVID-19 continues to be 5-10 days and thus it is imperative that you monitor your symptoms and honestly report any new or different symptoms so we can discuss the next steps. The college’s COVID-19 Alert Level will remain at Yellow: Moderate Concern, but the COVID-19 Task Force will continue to evaluate campus conditions on a daily basis.

As a reminder, following CDC guidance, any person who is identified as a close contact is exempt from having to physically quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic.  The covid testing staff communicates directly with the close contacts and tracks their quarantine period closely.  If you have any questions about our protocols, please refer to the college’s website, or email us at [email protected].

It is extremely important for all community members to follow masking and physical distancing policies. These two protocols are crucial in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Please share this responsibility in keeping the campus community safe.

Testing will be available on a typical Monday through Thursday schedule – 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (closed 12 – 1 p.m.) – until Thursday, December 16, 2021.  Additional information will be provided to faculty, staff, and students approved to stay on campus over the winter break.  Please be sure to schedule your appointments in advance in the CoVerified app.

With just a couple of weeks left in the semester, we know we can get through this phase of the pandemic with community-wide adherence to the college’s current COVID-19 protocols.

Be well and stay safe,

Dean Zack

Zachary Irish
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
Dean of Students Office