Dec. 29: Faculty and Staff Update: Winter Semester Plans

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I write today to provide you with an update about plans for this upcoming semester. Please take a moment to read this message as it requires timely action and planning.

As you are aware from the news and experiences over the break, the highly contagious omicron variant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 for new cases in the United States. The daily average number of COVID-19 new cases nationally has increased by 126% over the past two weeks. We still have much to learn about omicron, but it is clear that it is considerably more transmissible than the delta variant, even for those who have received their initial series of two shots. When added to the initial vaccination series, a booster shot offers protection against both initial infection and strong protection against severe symptoms, hospitalization, and death.

The particular characteristics of omicron present new challenges for residential settings, where students live in congregate housing and eat together. Accordingly, we must take a more stringent approach to the winter semester’s student arrival testing and onboarding period in January. This plan will help us understand our baseline situation and limit the level of COVID-19 transmission on campus. Our goal is to maintain the layers of public health protection – particularly vaccination, testing, indoor masking, and limitations on outside visitors. Outlined below are the specific policies and plans. 

Later today, students will receive notification of policies and plans related to their return to campus. These plans include a more stringent approach to baseline testing and onboarding when students return to campus, booster requirements, and grab and go dining and residence hall restrictions for students’ their first week back on campus.

COVID-19 Testing

One of the most effective strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is to know when you have the disease so that you can limit your contact with others. Therefore, employees are strongly encouraged to test regularly — once a week for those frequently on campus.

Testing will be available for employees in the Muskie Archives on Tuesday, Jan. 4, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and on Monday, Jan. 10, and Tuesday, Jan. 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. No appointments will be necessary for those days.

Starting the week of Jan. 17, testing will be available on Tuesday or Thursday, consistent with the fall semester.

If you have questions about COVID-19 testing, please direct them to the COVID-19 Testing Center team at testingcenter@bates.edu. The COVID-19 Testing Center team will begin responding to inquiries when the college reopens on Jan. 3.

Please note that the COVID-19 Testing Center has been relocated to the Muskie Archives.

Booster Disclosure in 2022

Employees are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated with an additional “booster” dose as soon as eligible to do so. In the coming weeks, we will ask all employees to share booster vaccination information to Garnet Gateway. 

Public Health Policies

I also want to highlight the public health policies that will remain from last semester and outline additional precautions to start 2022, which have been developed in consultation with the college’s clinical consultants.

  • All Bates community members, vaccinated or unvaccinated, must wear a mask indoors. The limited exceptions to this requirement, where you do not need to wear a mask, include:
    • When seated at a college-sponsored indoor event with food at Commons, Chase Hall, or the Mays Center (though masks will be required while entering and in the servery or procuring food);
    • When alone in other private campus indoor spaces (e.g., private offices).

You may report student violations to the Office of Community Standards by emailing studentaffairs@bates.edu

  • Only students, faculty, and staff may be in buildings on campus. Guests and visitors may not be in campus buildings until further notice. This limitation includes audience members for musical performances, theater and dance productions, and art exhibits, as well as spectators at athletic events.
  • Athletic facilities for exercising will not be open to faculty and staff until further notice. 
  • College-supported travel should be evaluated carefully as we learn more about the course of the omicron variant.

COVID-19 Policies

Please see the Employee Policies and Employee FAQ for additional information.

Please enjoy the remaining days of the winter break, and if you have not yet received your COVID-19 booster and you are eligible, please be sure to do so before returning to campus.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey Swift

Vice President for Finance and Administration