COVID-19 Protocol Change: Indoor Mask Requirement

Dear Wheaton Community,

Similar to what many institutions and communities locally and around the United States have recently experienced, Wheaton has seen an uptick of COVID cases on campus over the past week. Between the on-campus testing center and self-reported at-home tests, we have seen more than 50 positive cases within the student community. This increase is likely due to the impact of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant prevalent in our area. While recent studies show this variant does not cause more severe illness, it is even more transmissible than past variants.

As a result, the college is implementing a temporary change to our indoor mask policy and would like to remind the community of existing campus protocols:

Indoor Mask Requirements
Effective immediately, masks will be required in ALL indoor settings, including offices, residence halls and dining facilities, except when individuals are actively eating, drinking or bathing, are inside residence hall rooms with only roommates, or are alone in private offices. The reinstated indoor masking requirement will temporarily run through Wednesday, April 27. The COVID-19 Task Force and President’s Council will reevaluate campus and local conditions at that time and provide further updates. The mask policy for classrooms and instructional spaces will remain in place through the end of the academic year.

Quarantine and Isolation Housing
As has been the protocol for the Spring 2022 semester, any student who tests positive and lives within a reasonable distance of campus will be expected to return to their permanent address to complete their isolation period. We have seen the vast majority of students take this action throughout the pandemic out of personal preference. We are encouraging this practice to continue so we can preserve isolation space and resources for other students who do not have that flexibility.

Events and Guests
At this time, there are no additional restrictions for events and activities, with the exception of masks being temporarily required for all indoor spaces on campus.

Close Contacts
As part of the college’s positive test protocols established on February 1, 2022, the college encourages positive cases to notify their close contacts, defined as someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Close contacts can review current quarantine guidance on the CDC website.

Symptom Monitoring
As a reminder, please stay in your place of residence if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. If you are a student on campus, contact Norton Medical Center at 508-285-9500 to schedule an appointment to be seen. Employees should follow up with their primary care physician.

As stated in communications earlier in the semester, the college has been prepared and ready to reinstate at any time any of the mitigation strategies utilized during the previous two years should infection rates increase. We have not seen a comparable increase in cases during the pandemic, but thankfully the vast majority of our community is up-to-date on vaccinations and we are not seeing cases involving severe illness.

We continue to remain focused on the health and safety of our community and are also working towards our traditional end-of-the-semester activities such as the conclusion of classes, exams, and community celebrations. Our objectives are to keep the Wheaton community healthy, limit loneliness and isolation, and maintain our collective academic and professional pursuits.

We truly appreciate your continued flexibility. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, we must continue to balance our community engagement with vigilance and caution.

Stay safe and be well, 

Darnell Parker Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Zachary Irish Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Chair of the Covid -19 Task Force