April 29: Response to New CDC Guidance about Face Coverings

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

We write to clarify campus policy in light of recent changes to both federal CDC and state CDC guidance on the use of face coverings. For the reasons outlined below, all current Bates policies will remain in effect through Commencement on May 27, 2021.

Face Coverings

Federal CDC Guidance and Indoor Face Coverings

Federal CDC guidance now states that fully vaccinated people may “gather indoors [and outdoors] without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart,” except in larger gatherings of individuals from multiple households. Fully vaccinated means being two weeks past a second Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna dose or two weeks past a single Johnson & Johnson dose. As a result of the timing of vaccine eligibility in Maine, we know the majority of employees and the student body are not fully vaccinated, and this will remain the case for the remainder of the semester. Further, it is not possible to distinguish between who has and has not been fully vaccinated when encountering each other, making it impossible to operate under two different sets of policies, one for fully vaccinated people and one for unvaccinated people. Thus, the college will continue its policy to require masking indoors.

State CDC Guidance and Outdoor Face Coverings

Earlier this week, Maine Governor Janet Mills announced that Maine is updating its public health guidance to remove the requirement that people wear face coverings in outdoor settings as long as people practice physical distancing. While research continues to show that being together while physically distanced outdoors is much safer than congregating together inside, we have seen repeatedly how difficult it has been, and continues to be, for members of our community to practice physical distancing, as we frequently observe people congregating in close proximity outside. We understand this is human nature, and it therefore makes wearing face coverings all the more important. 

In addition, federal CDC guidance continues to stress the need for both masking and physical distancing in congregate living situations and for masking in indoor and outdoor settings where individuals gather with groups of people from other households and physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as athletic events, concerts, and other social activities. 

The residential nature of our community, which can quickly result in a rapid spread of the virus, reinforces the need to continue with the same face covering policies that have kept us safe throughout the fall and winter months.

Earlier this semester, we lived through a 12-day in-room restriction experience that was very challenging for students, faculty, and staff. We do not want to find ourselves in this situation again, particularly given our desire for a strong finish to the year, culminating in an in-person commencement. 

Vaccinations

The new outdoor face covering guidance was influenced at the state level by the community effort of Maine residents. Thank you to all students, faculty, and staff who have moved towards getting vaccinated, whether fully vaccinated, having one shot, or searching to schedule your first vaccine appointment. This is very important as we move toward the fall, and we urge everyone to get vaccinated. Each individual who gets fully vaccinated contributes toward a community effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is the community effort as a whole that will allow us to relax public health practices.  

Vaccine appointments are increasingly easy to get in Maine, including at the Auburn Mall. While there are many vaccine clinics in Maine, we highlight this clinic due to its close proximity to the college, and our partnership with CMMC and BHS. A complete list of sites is available here. Those without ready computer access may call (888) 445-4111, which includes translation services. There is no out-of-pocket cost for vaccines, and Bates will provide two hours of paid time off to any employee to get a vaccine dose during work hours.

Getting vaccinated is an integral step toward returning to the close community experience that we all enjoy.

Sincerely,

Josh McIntosh
Vice President for Campus Life

Geoff Swift
Vice President for Finance and Administration