Update on Fall 2021 Return to Campus Protocols

Preparations for the much anticipated upcoming academic year have been underway since the spring. As we turn the page on our calendars and enter the month of August, those plans for students’ arrival to campus begin to take greater shape and quickly move into high gear. Our Return to Campus Task Force and campus partners have been working hard and have approached this planning with the expectation and the goal of having our community return to campus and to an experience that more closely resembles the in-person learning and vibrant residential experience that Wheaton does so well. Throughout we have maintained a commitment to the health and safety of our community and have looked to and relied upon guidance from state and federal officials to provide the foundation and guide this important work.   

While there are many positive indicators that we are in a better place, including low transmission rates and growing vaccination rates, the pandemic continues to present new and different challenges. In the last month alone, the more transmissible Delta variant has become prevalent nationally and in our local community of Massachusetts. Widespread vaccination is absolutely necessary to ensure our collective health and safety and we thank the majority of you who have already submitted proof of vaccination. As we have seen from recent reports of the breakthrough COVID-19 infections, vaccinations are not sufficient on their own. Masking and testing will also be a critical part of our approach this fall, to ensure we can prioritize the in-person experience our community enjoys.

An update about check-in and move-in was sent to students on Friday, but we wanted to provide additional information about the current plans for COVID-19 mitigation and general community expectations.

Vaccinations 

The college is requiring all students and employees, except those with limited medical and religious exemptions, to be vaccinated. Students must submit proof of vaccination to health_services@wheatoncollege.edu prior to their arrival on campus.  At this time, fully vaccinated individuals are defined as those who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines or a single dose of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine more than 14 days ago. 

Mask Wearing

In light of the latest guidance from the CDC and other health authorities, starting August 9, we will begin to require all persons on campus to wear a mask or face covering in any indoor space, regardless of their vaccinated status. Masks are not required to be worn in private residence hall rooms when the residents of the room are present, or while actively bathing or eating. 

Testing, Quarantine & Isolation 

We expect to continue to rely on regular testing for all campus constituents, including students, faculty and staff throughout the fall semester. To start the semester, we will require weekly, individual PCR testing for all campus community members.  Additionally, all students will be required to test during the check-in process for the Fall 2021 semester. Failure to adhere with the testing protocol may result in student conduct actions. Quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing will continue during the fall semester for any on-campus positive COVID-19 test results based on federal and state guidelines. Students who are identified as a close contact of a positive case are not required to quarantine so long as they are cleared by a healthcare professional as fully vaccinated or have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and are asymptomatic. Students who test positive or are symptomatic will be required to isolate in the residence hall designated for quarantine and isolation or at an off-campus address per CDC guidance.

If you have any questions about testing or the CoVerified app, please contact covidtesting@wheatoncollege.edu with any questions or concerns. 

Symptom Monitoring 

We will continue to require all students to complete and submit a daily symptom check before leaving their residence hall room or coming to campus each day. The symptom check is accessed via the CoVerified app. Please keep in mind that students may be asked to show proof of their  “cleared” status on the CoVerified app to access some spaces or events on campus. This added precaution minimizes the potential risk of illness or infection to others on campus. Students experiencing symptoms must not leave their room or come to campus, and contact Norton Medical Center or their primary care physician for next steps.

Meetings, Events and Gatherings 

We will continue to exercise caution when conducting or planning meetings and gatherings. To prioritize spaces on campus for the in-person student experience, most faculty and staff meetings will remain virtual. In-person engagement opportunities will be permitted with specific guidelines from Conference and Events and the Office of Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership (SAIL). To start the semester, there will be no large events or meetings held in any indoor spaces. Large events or gatherings must be held outdoors and attendees should be encouraged to practice physical distancing when possible. The exact gathering limit will be determined closer to the start of the semester based upon current health guidance at that time. We anticipate the fitness center, library, and other engagement environments on campus to be available and accessible without additional restrictions.

Guests on Campus  

At the beginning of the semester, we will continue to maintain our current guidelines in regards to visitors on campus, which states that students may host non-Wheaton guests but they must remain outdoors. During student move-in, only two family members may enter the residence hall to assist with the student. As with all current protocols, our guest policy will be monitored and revised as conditions evolve.

Travel 

Students are encouraged to limit their travel off campus once they arrive on campus.  Students who must leave campus are encouraged to take safety precautions to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus.  

As we have done throughout this pandemic, we are making these changes as we monitor evolving public health information and state and federal guidance, in the hopes of containing any potential outbreaks and prioritizing the in-person student experience.  We are grateful for your continued commitment to a safe community and are grateful for your patience and flexibility as we continue to do everything we can to create a safe environment on campus and return to an in-person experience.  We will continue to share additional information as we approach the start of the academic year.  

We look forward to seeing you soon,

Dr. Parker
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Dean Zack
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs