Feb. 2: New and Updated Details for Winter Semester Arrivals

Dear Students,

I write to provide additional information and reminders related to the winter semester. It is important that you read this message carefully, as it includes information about recent changes we have made to COVID-19 testing upon your arrival on campus.

As a result of this change in testing, all students must take timely action to sign agreements in the Garnet Gateway if you wish to return for the winter semester.

For Students: An Arrival Checklist

Required Items Before Arrival

  • Read this update for important new information about arrival testing.
  • Sign up in Garnet Gateway for an arrival testing time. (Signup email with instructions sent on Jan. 18.)
  • Complete a symptom self-screening form. (Self-screening email will be sent to students prior to arrival date.)
  • Reschedule your testing times. (Email with directions to be sent Feb. 9 )
  • Read and sign new student agreements (Garnet Gateway To-Do list)
  • Register for Module C mealtime pickup. (Garnet Gateway To-Do list)
  • For in-bound international travelers: Show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days prior to boarding their flight, following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements.

Required Items Upon Arrival

  • Go to the Bates COVID-19 Testing Center at Underhill for testing and check-in.
  • Follow arrival quarantine protocols.

Optional Items

  • Get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to arrival on campus.
  • Reserve a free ticket for shuttle service from Portland to campus on Thursday, Feb. 11, or Friday, Feb. 12.
  • Reserve a spot for campus recreation and fitness activities.
  • Switch to on-campus learning for the winter semester, if you wish, by emailing studentaffairs@bates.edu by Friday, Jan. 29.
  • Switch to remote learning for the winter semester, if you wish by emailing studentaffairs@bates.edu Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Here’s what is covered in this update:

Reminder About Signing Up for Arrival Testing

If you have not already done so, you must schedule your arrival to campus and testing time in the Garnet Gateway by Tuesday, Feb. 9. This applies to all students returning for on-campus learning for the winter semester whether you live on or off campus. The COVID-19 Testing Center team sent you a message on Jan. 19 providing detailed instructions on how to sign up in Garnet Gateway for your arrival testing time. If you have questions about scheduling an arrival testing time, please contact the COVID-19 Testing Center team at testingcenter@bates.edu.

Additional Arrival COVID-19 Testing Through Rapid Antigen Screen

As you may be seeing and reading in the news, COVID-19 transmission remains a challenge across the country, with some areas being more affected than others. Recognizing that one way to mitigate transmission rates is to quickly identify and isolate those individuals who have the virus, we will require all students who return to campus for the winter semester to fully participate in a rapid COVID-19 antigen screening, in addition to the Broad Institute’s COVID-19 PCR test with which you are familiar.

Please read the important details below about this additional screening tool, and how it will impact the campus arrival experience.

What’s the difference between a rapid antigen screen and a PCR test?

As the name suggests, a rapid antigen screen yields quicker results (within minutes) than a PCR test. While a PCR test, which is what the Bates COVID-19 Testing Center has been providing since August, is considered the gold standard for identifying positive cases of the virus, antigen tests give us one more important tool — speed of results — as we seek to safely regather for the winter semester.

Why are we doing an antigen screening upon arrival?

Given the prevalence of COVID-19 across the country, we anticipate that more students will arrive with active cases of COVID-19 than we experienced for fall arrival. 

In response, we will test all students through rapid antigen screening upon arrival. This will help to identify active cases of COVID-19 and give us the opportunity to immediately begin isolation protocol to support those students within their initial hours on campus. 

Rapid screening will reduce the likelihood of students with active cases of COVID-19 spending time in a residence hall while they await the results of their Broad PCR test, thus potentially exposing other students and accumulating close contacts who would need to be quarantined.  

While rapid antigen screening may not identify all students who ultimately test positive via their Broad PCR test, it will identify students with the greatest risk of transmitting COVID-19 to other students.

What is the antigen screening we are using?

Bates is using the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card, which is now being provided to schools, businesses, and other organizations nationally. The CDC reports that the test’s fast turnaround time “can help limit transmission by more rapidly identifying infectious persons for isolation, particularly when used as a component of serial testing strategies,” such as those at Bates.

What will the testing process be like when I arrive at the Bates COVID-19 Testing Center at Underhill Arena?

With the implementation of rapid antigen screening, the Winter Semester arrival testing process will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Here is an overview of what the process will look like:

  1. Arrive at the Bates COVID-19 Testing Center at Underhill Arena: Arrive at your assigned testing time at Underhill and receive a passport to track the steps and progress through the arrival process.
  1. Rapid Antigen Screening: Receive an assigned waiting zone and complete a rapid antigen screening. 
    • Students will perform an antigen self-swab that will use a different technique from the Broad PCR swab. A medical provider will talk you through this new technique while observing the swab.
  1. Broad PCR Testing: Receive a dining wristband, Broad testing supplies, and complete the usual Broad PCR swab.
  1. Waiting in Merrill Gymnasium and Receiving Antigen Screening Results: Go to Merrill and wait for antigen screening results in the assigned waiting zone provided on your passport. 
    • Wait in chairs spaced six feet apart in groups of no more than 10 for approximately 20 minutes.
    • A contact tracer will notify you of your results. Results from the first antigen screening can be inconclusive, negative, or presumptive positive.
      • If inconclusive, another antigen screening will be performed as if it were the first screening. This essentially means “start over.” 
      • If negative, proceed to Access and Check-in.
      • If positive, a second antigen screening will be performed where the results will be negative or presumptive positive to determine if a student will need to enter isolation housing as presumptive positive pending their Broad PCR test results. 

Please remember, the test of record is the diagnostic Broad PCR test. All presumptive positive antigen screening results must be confirmed by a positive Broad PCR result.

  1. Access and Check-in: Proceed to the final station in the arrival process to receive access to your residence. Exit Merrill, and continue arrival quarantine protocol as noted below.

Reminder About Arrival Quarantine

Upon arrival at Bates, and until you receive your first PCR COVID-19 test results, all students will be restricted to their campus room or off-campus residence under an arrival quarantine protocol. This quarantine period is extremely important to ensure that students do not transmit COVID-19 while awaiting their PCR test results. 

During arrival quarantine, students may not move about campus or their residence halls except to pick up their Dash (grab-n-go) meals and use the restroom. Students should plan to remain in arrival quarantine for the initial 36–48 hours on campus while awaiting their first PCR test result. After receiving the first negative PCR test result, students may discontinue arrival quarantine and move about campus; however, students may not leave campus or attend any classes until receiving a second negative PCR test result. 

Students who choose not to follow arrival quarantine protocols are in violation of the public health agreement and will be removed from campus housing and be required to return to their home to continue the semester via remote learning. For repeated or egregious violations, students may be referred to the Student Conduct Committee where a minimum one-semester suspension will be the likely outcome. The arrival of students to campus from all over the country and world is a challenging and vulnerable time, and it is important that we all do our part to mitigate the risk of transmission. For questions about arrival quarantine, please contact Assistant Dean of Students Blake Reilly (breilly3@bates.edu). 

Thrice-Weekly COVID-19 Testing/Screening to Begin Winter Semester

During the fall semester, students participated in COVID-19 PCR testing two times per week. Given the success of our population testing program, and recognizing the increased prevalence of COVID-19 across the U.S., students will be required to visit the COVID-19 Testing Center at Underhill three times per week for at least the first two weeks of classes.

These changes in the COVID-19 testing program, which will go into effect after the arrival testing program, will require you to reschedule your testing times for the winter semester, and I apologize for this inconvenience. You will receive an email on Tuesday, Feb. 9, providing you with directions on how to schedule your new testing times for the winter semester.

Here is when the Testing Center is open:

Mondays: PCR Test (7:30am–1pm)
Wednesdays: PCR Test (7:30am–1pm)
Fridays: Antigen Screening (7:30am–1pm)

Adding a rapid antigen screening on Fridays will provide us with an even stronger indication of a student’s COVID-19 status by Friday afternoons. This is important as it helps staff support students moving to isolation and quarantine prior to a weekend, when Bates Health Services and the Testing Center are closed. It also allows us to isolate positive cases of COVID-19 prior to the two days of non-testing, as students’ next scheduled test will be on Monday.

For Friday’s screening, all presumptive positive students identified via antigen screening will then receive a Broad PCR test to confirm positivity. This is a very similar process to student arrival. Monday and Wednesday PCR tests will follow a process identical to the fall semester. 

We will administer this testing and screening program through the first couple weeks of classes while we assess campus COVID-19 transmission. As the public health landscape continues to evolve, we may adjust our testing and screening frequency during the winter semester, and we ask in advance for your flexibility and cooperation.

Agreements All Students Must Sign by Monday, Feb. 8

All students planning to return to campus are required to review and electronically sign a number of documents prior to their arrival to Bates for the winter 2021 semester. Because of the updates to our COVID-19 testing protocols (i.e. antigen testing), all students planning to return to campus need to sign these documents, even if they already signed similar documents prior to the start of the fall 2020 semester. 

Students who do not sign all required documents by Monday, Feb. 8, will be automatically switched to remote learning status and have their housing canceled for the winter 2021 semester.

What are these documents?

There are four documents that all students are required to review and sign. They are:

  1. Consent to COVID-19 Testing: This form allows the Broad Institute to process your tests.
  1. Release of COVID-19 Testing Results: The purpose of this form is (1) to authorize Broad and Bates College to disclose the results of COVID-19 tests to Bates Health Services (BHS), and (2) for BHS to disclose positive test results from either source to Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) and to designated Bates College employees for use in connection with the provision of medical care and contact tracing, respectively.
  1. Student Public Health Agreement: This document outlines the public health and behavioral expectations of all students upon their return to campus. It also outlines the potential consequences for not adhering to these requirements.
  1. Acknowledgement of Shared Responsibility and Risk: This document asks students to acknowledge that they understand the shared risks and responsibilities of returning to campus for the winter 2021 semester.
How do I review and sign these forms?

Students who are 18 or older may review and sign these forms in Garnet Gateway. They may be found in your To Do list. 

What if I am currently under 18?

Students currently under the age of 18 must also have their parent(s)/guardian(s) review and sign these documents. Students currently under the age of 18 may access the relevant forms in the same manner as all other students — through the To Do list on Garnet Gateway.

However, once the link is clicked, they will be routed to a different program to permit both the student and their parent(s)/guardian(s) to review and sign the required documents.

What is the deadline to complete these forms?

All students should review and sign the required documents by Monday, Feb. 8.

Will I be able to read the documents again after signing?

Yes. You may review documents previously signed in Garnet Gateway. You can find them in the Information menu under the Policy header. 

What if I am not comfortable signing one or more of the required documents?

Students planning to return to campus must sign all required documents. Students who do not sign all required documents will not be permitted to return to campus for the winter 2021 semester. These students may opt instead to study remotely or take a leave of absence. 

If I have questions, whom do I contact?

If you have questions, please contact the Student Affairs team at studentaffairs@bates.edu.

Switching to Remote Learning

We understand that the continued uncertainty and complexity associated with the winter semester may lead to students to prefer to study remotely rather than return to campus. If you would like to switch to remote learning for the winter semester, you may do so until Wednesday, Feb. 10. Please email studentaffairs@bates.edu to make this adjustment.

Reminder About Signing Up for Dining

Please remember to complete your meal time/location selections under your to-do list on Garnet Gateway no later than Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. You need to sign up for pickup times for more meals during Module C: Saturday–Sunday brunch and dinner; Monday–Friday lunch and dinner. 

While we do not anticipate a change from the existing model of requiring pickup times only for Monday–Friday lunch, collecting additional registration information will allow Dining Services to quickly activate additional meal period schedules if required.

During the initial arrival testing period (Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, through Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021) you will be required to present both your wristband, which you will receive at the COVID-19 Testing Center, as well as your student ID, to enter Commons. Unlike arrival in August, meal times will not be organized by band color. Here are the hours of operation for dining.

If you have questions about scheduling meal times/location please contact DCCE Business Manager Jenny Graves (jgraves2@bates.edu). If you have questions about the menu or special dietary needs contact Senior Administrative Coordinator for DCCE and Special Dietary Needs Liaison Kelly Perreault (kperrea2@bates.edu).

Spring Season for Varsity Teams

Last week, college presidents of the New England Small College Athletic Conference met and collectively decided to delay a decision regarding conference competition for the upcoming spring athletics seasons. Administrators and coaching staff have worked tirelessly throughout the past year with our foremost concern being to balance our strong desire to sponsor competition for our teams with the overall health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and communities.

Should conditions allow, we are planning for athletics practice and participation once students return to campus, with a decision regarding the NESCAC seasons expected by the presidents in late February or early March.

Where to Direct Questions

Should you have any questions not covered above, please send an email to studentaffairs@bates.edu. Thank you for your continued patience and flexibility as our plans for the winter semester evolve. I look forward to seeing you on campus at the end of next week.

All my best,

Joshua McIntosh

Vice President for Campus Life