Updates on COVID-19 Protocols for Spring 2022

As we prepare for the start of the semester, we wanted to provide some updates on our campus protocols for COVID-19. Please read through all of this information as it provides new updates on quarantine and isolation space, contact tracing protocols, events and gatherings attendance, and residence hall visitation.

Booster Requirement and Clinic

As announced in December, Wheaton College is requiring all faculty, staff, and students to receive the COVID-19 booster before February 1, 2022 or once they are eligible.  

Students should submit a photo of their CDC vaccine card with the updated booster information to [email protected]. Those who plan to submit a waiver for a religious or medical exemption should contact [email protected] for more information. 

We will be hosting a booster clinic on January 27, 2022 to provide the booster to those in the community who are eligible. To receive a booster, one must be at least 18 years of age, AND have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccination at least two months ago OR received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna (or other WHO-approved Covid19 vaccine series) at least 5 months ago. Please register to book an on-campus COVID-19 booster!

January Arrival

As a reminder, all students are expected to have two COVID-19 PCR tests prior to the first day of in-person classes on January 31, 2022.  As such, students can check in between Thursday, January 20, 2022 and Tuesday, January 25, 2022.  All resident students, commuter students, and off-campus residents must register for their initial testing appointment during this time period, which will also be their check-in time, on the CoVerified App.  Students who tested positive for COVID-19 over the winter break should contact [email protected], if they have not done so already.

Upon arrival, students will be required to adhere to modified quarantine from the time of their arrival until their first negative test result. Modified quarantine means that students must remain in their room with the exception of going to get take-out from the dining hall, using the restroom, or a brief walk outside.  

We strongly encourage all students to test prior to returning to campus. While we recognize there are difficulties in accessing tests at this moment, we encourage students to test either via rapid or PCR test to confirm they are not positive prior to their return. This has already been a helpful strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus on campus during our early arrival period. If a student is experiencing symptoms, they are not permitted to return to campus and should contact [email protected].

Quarantine and Isolation Update

Upon recommendation from the COVID Task Force, 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 to prioritize their personal comfort and mental health during the isolation period. We are encouraging this practice to continue so we can preserve isolation space and resources for other students who do not have that flexibility.

Contact Tracing Update

To prioritize the health and safety of our community through the onboarding process, all positive cases will continue to be interviewed by the COVID Testing staff to determine close contacts.  Close contacts are defined by the CDC as another person within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes within the 48 hours prior to their positive test result or symptom onset. The COVID Testing Team will notify these identified close contacts by email. This email will state that the student was identified as a close contact and to complete a Google form to determine the next steps.  

Tentative of the conditions during the onboarding process, we plan to discontinue the contact tracing process as of February 1, 2022. This new practice has become the norm for colleges and communities at this stage of the pandemic. The college will continue with testing and isolating positive cases and will expect positive cases to notify their own close contacts.  

Events and Gatherings

The COVID Task Force recognizes the importance of social engagement and its impact on student health and wellness. In-person campus events and gatherings will resume on January 31, 2022. At this time, events on campus are only open to members of our community who are in our testing cadence. It is important that students continue getting testing as outlined in the testing protocols. Event attendees are required to wear masks in all indoor areas and adhere to space occupancy restrictions.  

Residence Halls

Resident students are allowed to visit other students in different residence halls and theme houses and must not exceed more than one guest per resident assigned to the room.  Commuter and off-campus resident students are permitted in the residence halls as long as they are in the testing cadence.  

Testing Protocols

As communicated in our previous email, all community members will be required to test twice weekly to start the semester. The Testing Center will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. (closed 12 – 1 p.m. for lunch). Appointments should be scheduled in advance on CoVerified. Tests cannot be taken on back-to-back days, so you must plan ahead.

Mask and Face Covering Policy

The CDC has issued updated guidance that KN95 masks are the most effective in mitigating the risk of infection for COVID-19 Omicron variant. We strongly encourage community members to procure and wear KN95 masks, or to double mask with surgical or cloth masks. Masks and face coverings will continue to be required in all indoor locations, with the only exceptions being while actively eating or bathing, or in an assigned room alone with assigned roommates. 

Additional Safety Measures

As the positivity and transmission rates are the highest they have been throughout the pandemic in the local communities, students are expected to limit their travel off-campus. If off-campus is required, it is expected that students will adhere to all safety measures outlined above.

Given the increased focus on the health and safety of our community, violations of the Community Standards, specific to COVID-19-related policies will result in elevated disciplinary measures. As a reminder, Wheaton’s jurisdiction extends to behaviors both on and off-campus. Large social gatherings exceeding the occupancy levels of the space are prohibited and will result in student conduct review with sanctions up to and including loss of housing and/or restrictions from campus.  

The COVID-19 Task Force continues to monitor the conditions on campus, the local community, and CDC and Massachusetts guidance to make determinations around safety measures, including but not limited to guests and events on campus. Be sure to review the website for the most current policies, protocols, and data from campus.

We look forward to welcoming everyone back on campus in a couple of weeks.

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