Aug. 16: Important Updated Public Health Policies for Employees

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the college has based its public health policies on recommendations provided by public health and clinical experts and on science and data. We have been consulting our public health experts as we craft comprehensive policies for the start of the academic year. These experts believe that our exceptionally high vaccination rate for the Bates campus community as a whole—approximately 95% based on current numbers—and Maine’s relatively high rate—70% of individuals 12+ years old as of August 14, 2021—will allow us to provide an in-person student experience in a way that also attends to the health and well-being of the entire community. Unfortunately, however, the current spread of the highly transmissible delta variant requires temporary adjustments to our current policies.

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 our public health experts and the U.S. CDC, the following policies will take effect tomorrow and remain in effect until further notice.  

FACE COVERINGS

During this expected period of high transmission in Androscoggin County, as we welcome students back to campus from around the world, all Bates community members, vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear a mask while indoors on-campus and at Bates-sponsored off-campus programs.  The limited exceptions to this requirement are: when seated and eating in the Den or while eating at a college-catered event (though masks will be required while entering these spaces or when procuring food) and when alone in private offices.  In addition, students and live-in Residence Life staff will be allowed to remove masks in Commons and residence halls. 

Those individuals who are unvaccinated will be required to wear masks at all times on campus —both indoors and outdoors.

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 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.

COVID-19 TESTING

To establish a baseline prior to student arrival on campus, we will now provide testing for all employees at our COVID-19 Testing Center in Underhill Arena on Monday, August 23 and Tuesday, August 24.  Testing will be held between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.  During this time we will be utilizing the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test.  To minimize wait times and facilitate traffic flow through the testing center, please sign up for a testing time here.  

All unvaccinated faculty and staff will be required to test for COVID-19 on these days.  Vaccinated employees may choose to test at this time as well. 

CAMPUS VISITORS, EVENTS, and COMMONS

Until further notice, campus visitors are not permitted in campus buildings, with the exception of parents and family members on move-in day, who are permitted to enter their student’s residence hall, masked, for no longer than an hour.  Additionally, except in rare circumstances, events on campus must be limited to students, faculty, and staff. More information on events is available here and the external vendor policy is available here. Starting Monday August 23, Commons will be limited to students, except for language tables. Information about how faculty and staff can order catering or to-go meals for college sponsored meetings and events can be found here.

The college thanks everyone who has been fully vaccinated, since wide-scale vaccination is the most important component of providing a safe environment to live, learn, and work.  The other public health policies are important supplemental measures, and failure to comply with them will result in progressive discipline, beginning with a three-day unpaid suspension and escalating to termination.

Individuals looking for further information may find these FAQs helpful. Additionally, the Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan has been updated.  

I want to acknowledge that returning to more significant public health protocols, including all members of the community wearing masks indoors, following a summer with fewer restrictions will have some challenges. Further, I recognize that we are at our best when public health allows us to welcome our local community and other guests and visitors. I hope that better days are ahead and that we will soon be returning to lower transmission rates. Thank you for everything you are doing to support our community.

Best,

Geoffrey Swift
Vice President for Finance and Administration