Aug. 16: Important Updated Public Health Policies for Students
I write to provide an update on campus public health and masking policies given the community transmission of COVID-19 within Androscoggin County and Maine. This serves as an update to the new student message and returning student message I sent to you in July. Our high vaccination rate for the campus community as a whole—approximately 95% based on current numbers—has allowed us to plan for a year of in-person campus experiences that we all deeply value, in the areas of classes, Commons, athletics, events, programming, clubs, and organizations. Unfortunately, however, the current spread of the highly transmissible delta variant means that we need to put in place some temporary public health measures as we begin the fall semester.
Androscoggin County is currently identified as having a substantial transmission profile by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given the likelihood of transitioning to high in the near future, based on recommendations from public health experts and the federal CDC, we are temporarily updating our public health guidelines for student arrival and through the beginning of the semester.
Specifically, all Bates community members, vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear a mask while indoors, both on-campus and off-campus, effective Tuesday, August 17. The limited exceptions to this requirement, where you do not need to wear a mask, include:
- When seated in Commons or at a college-catered event (though masks will be required while entering Commons and in the servery or procuring food);
- When in residence halls; and
- When in other private campus indoor spaces by oneself.
These exceptions are designed to allow students to be unmasked when it is safe or not practical to wear them. Also, as a reminder, no guests or outside visitors may enter Bates buildings, except for guests who are fully vaccinated or recently tested negative who may assist you with move-in for one hour. Please note that these guests must wear a mask at all times while in the residence hall.
We hope these masking guidelines will be temporary, as this wave of COVID-19 in Androscoggin County waxes and then wanes. The pattern with the delta variant elsewhere in the world has been a fairly fast spike in cases in a local area followed by a sharp decline within a couple weeks. Public health experts expect a similar trend in the United States. If and when community transmission declines in Androscoggin County and Bates community transmission remains low, we anticipate returning to our original plan of not requiring masks on campus for vaccinated individuals.
Please remember that even when masking is not required, students, faculty, and staff may choose to wear a mask for any number of reasons. It is important that we support these individuals and respect their choice to take an extra precaution to keep themselves, their friends, their family, and community members safe.
I want to acknowledge that wearing masks indoors following a summer of likely less strict COVID-19 protocols is going to be challenging and difficult in the beginning of the academic year. This is not how we hoped to begin the year, and we ask for your patience and cooperation as we navigate the current situation.
Finally, as we prepare for student arrival, you may find these FAQs on our Health Services website helpful, and should you have any questions and not know to whom to direct your question, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing many of you in the coming days.
Vice President for Campus Life