Feb. 26: We Need Your Help
As we head into the weekend, I write to share information about where we stand with the COVID-19 situation on campus — and to ask for your help.
A Challenging Situation
Why are we concerned?
Since returning to campus last fall, students have done an amazing job of helping ensure that the on-campus experience could be carried out safely and successfully for all members of our community. We very much hope that the student experience during the winter semester will improve as the weather gets warmer and we are able to move more activities outside. But we are not there yet, and several factors make our situation particularly challenging at the moment.
Both on the Bates campus and at the broader local, state, and national levels, we are seeing significantly higher levels of community spread and higher positivity rates than we experienced for most of the fall. Additionally, a number of new and highly transmissible variants of COVID-19 have arrived in the United States and are making it much more likely that failing to adhere to public health practices is likely to result in outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus.
What is happening with COVID-19 transmission on our campus?
We are already seeing evidence of this pattern. From arrival for the winter semester through Thursday, Feb. 25, we have had 18 total student cases of COVID-19 on our campus. We currently have 11 active cases. We also now have 55 close contacts following the in-room quarantine protocol and 11 students who have tested positive for COVID-19 currently in isolation.
We have a strong support system in place for these students. We are currently providing support for symptom monitoring, access to Bates Health Services, check-in calls from the Student Affairs quarantine and isolation support team, mail delivery, access to COVID-19 testing, and meal delivery.
As you can imagine, this experience is difficult for students, and it also places significant demands on staff to deliver this level of operational support. Should the trend of students testing positive continue upwards, we may find ourselves needing to implement a campus-wide in-room restriction with remote learning for a number of days in order to stabilize the situation.
How can you help?
We know that you are tired of the constant attention to public health, and the restrictions on your activities and your ability to spend casual time with groups of friends. This is not the Bates experience that you imagined, or that we wanted for you. But now is not the time to relax our behaviors or our expectations of one another as members of this campus community.
Since the start of the semester, a number of students have violated aspects of the Student Public Health Agreement, which is designed to keep members of our community safe and healthy and to prevent the further transmission of COVID-19 on our campus. These violations include failing to adhere to arrival quarantine directives and entering residence halls other than their own. As a result, a number of students have been sent home and switched to remote learning.
Points of emphasis
- Any student found to be in a residence hall not their own, or hosting even a small, informal, maskless, close contact gathering, will be required to return home and switched to remote learning for no less than four weeks.
- Students who break quarantine protocols will also be sent home for a minimum of four weeks.
- Egregious violations, or repeated violations of a lesser degree, will result in students being moved to remote learning for the duration of the semester or suspension. There is simply too much at stake to not take these matters seriously.
As much as we do not want to do so, we will have to keep sending students home and switching them to remote learning, as necessary, to increase our likelihood of being able to offer the on-campus experience for the remainder of the semester and honor the choices of the many students who have come back to campus and are working hard to adhere to public health guidelines.
Reminder About Public Health Policies
All student public health policies from the fall semester remain in place. Although we know how challenging some of these policies are, they have been the linchpin of our successful fall semester on campus. Given the current national and local landscape, these policies must remain in effect for the winter semester in order to give us the best chance possible to have a positive end to our academic year.
Support Available for Students
We understand how challenging and isolating adhering to these public health guidelines can be, and we are here to support you however we can. We encourage you to utilize these resources as needed:
- Student Support Advisors (SSA) — All students have an SSA who is available for personal support and supplemental academic advising. Your SSA may be found by looking at your Success Network in BatesReach.
- Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) — Provides ongoing counseling, same day appointments, and psychiatric evaluations and medication management.
- Multifaith Chaplains — Available for pastoral care and conversations.
- Office of Intercultural Education — Professional and student staff are available for conversations and support.
We are so close to getting through the worst of this crisis. Every day brings promising news about vaccines: new versions, greater supply, and increased access. And you have been so patient and understanding about all we have asked of you in order to make the on-campus experience safe and successful. But we continue to need your help. We need you to stick with the behaviors that protect you, the people you care about, and the broader community.
Please have a safe weekend.
Vice President for Campus Life