Additional Information for Students about Winter Semester Plans

Dear Students,

We look forward to welcoming you back to campus for the winter semester. 

Since sending my message to you last Wednesday, a few of you have written to me with questions. With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share my answers to these questions with the entire student body and let you know how you can be assistance in making the transition back to campus as smooth as possible. In this message, I address the following questions:

If you have questions that are not answered below, please send them to studentaffairs@bates.edu and you will be connected to the right person to assist you. 

I want to acknowledge how discouraging I know it is for you to begin yet another semester under conditions dictated by the pandemic. It is certainly not where we hoped we would be as a world, a country, or a college. But here we are. 

With your help and diligence, our hope is to use the transition period to establish a safe and sustainable environment for the remainder of the semester that will allow us to return as quickly as possible to in-person classes, Commons dining, and co-curricular activities. Judging by what we’re hearing from some of our peer institutions, where students have returned to campus this week, the opening days of this semester may be uncomfortable and more emotionally stressful than any of us would like. You can help tremendously by getting boosted, properly wearing a mask in all indoor common areas, and fully participating in our testing program.

If you are planning to return to campus for the winter semester, I want to remind you of three things: 

  1. Do not come to campus if (a) you are experiencing any COVID-19-like symptoms; (b) you have been exposed to someone who you know or believe has COVID-19; or (c) you have tested positive for COVID-19 within 10 days prior to your arrival date. Instead, contact Health Services at healthservices@bates.edu to make a plan. 
  2. Get a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of traveling back to campus. If you are unsure of where to secure a test in your area, this website may be helpful. If you test positive on this test, do not come to campus. Rather, follow these directions.
  3. Bring your COVID-19 vaccine card (physical or digital), with evidence of your booster shot, if you are already eligible to receive it. You will need to show your vaccine card (physical or digital) to a staff member when you come to Muskie Archives for your first test.

Our goal is to protect the health of our campus and the broader community while providing the best in-person Bates experience possible under these unique conditions. I truly appreciate your continued flexibility, diligence, and care, as we all navigate the next few weeks together.

Sincerely,
Joshua McIntosh
Vice President for Campus Life


Frequently Asked Questions

Will these public health policies be in place for the duration of the semester?

The public health measures we are putting into place as we bring students back to campus and run the baseline testing program are a response to the high transmissibility of the omicron variant. They are intended to be temporary measures that will allow us to establish a manageable equilibrium as we start the semester. With a highly vaccinated and boosted campus community, we hope and expect that we will be able to return to the practices that worked so well for us this past fall. However, it is worth emphasizing that should we find ourselves in a more complex and longer-term situation with respect to the current phase of the pandemic, we will need to assess options for moving forward.

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What factors are considered when determining when to implement and lift public health policies?

There are many factors that go into decisions about when to implement and lift public health measures on campus, such as the number of simultaneous active cases, number of new cases, rate of new cases, isolation capacity, and staffing and operational capacity. Our public health policies related to traveling in the local community, regionally, nationally, and internationally are informed by the public health landscape in these areas (e.g., new cases, rates of increase of new cases, etc.). As we move through the first several days on campus in January, what is critically important when considering an easing of the public health measures is our ability to identify those who have COVID-19 so that we can follow our isolation protocols to help contain the spread. 

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What can I do during the baseline testing and onboarding period that allow me to be with friends and connect with others on campus?

For emotional wellbeing, we know it is important for students to be able to connect with each other. During the baseline testing and onboarding period, students may still gather and connect with one another in small groups while masked. Recreation and fitness spaces will remain open, along with other administrative and academic buildings on campus. We just want to avoid doing so in already dense spaces on campus (residence halls) or in those spaces where there is both density and unmasking (Commons) as we balance emotional wellbeing with the physical precautions of coming back to campus. 

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Why didn’t the college delay the start of the winter semester, as was done last academic year?

The college has been working closely with clinical advisors at the Mayo Clinic to develop safe and prudent plans to bring students back to campus. They have indicated that if we were to delay the return of students to late January, it would not have a material impact on the protocols we would need to have in place for baseline testing and onboarding. This could also be the case if we were to delay student return to the February break. Further, as we have all learned over the past two years, it is difficult to predict the particular challenges the pandemic may present as a semester progresses. At this point, therefore, we are making a good faith effort to preserve the in-person experience of the winter semester and to maintain the option of offering the first Short Term in three years.

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Why isn’t the college providing a remote learning option for students who do not want to return to campus?

We do not believe that conditions warrant this decision based on what we know now and based on our expectation that, with a fully vaccinated and boosted student body, the restrictions during the baseline testing and onboarding period will be temporary.  

We offered a fully remote option last academic year when we had an entirely unvaccinated student population, and there was even greater uncertainty entering the 2020-21 academic year. Requiring faculty to teach in-person and remote simultaneously placed significant burdens on faculty as well as students, and was particularly challenging in classes that depend on discussion, or experiential components such as dance, theater, music, or labs.

Any student wishing to be enrolled for the winter semester will need to return to campus on Sunday, Jan. 9, Monday, Jan. 10, or Tuesday, Jan. 11.

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If I don’t want to come back to campus this semester, what are my options for taking courses elsewhere to try to help me stay on track to graduate on time?

Students who prefer to take courses elsewhere, including online, this winter semester may wish to consider taking an academic leave of absence and enrolling in transferable courses at a local institution or one offering online courses. This approach could allow students to continue to make academic progress. Please note, Coursera and EdX courses are not transferable to Bates. Please contact the Registrar’s Office at registrar@bates.edu for more information.

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What type of mask should I be wearing?

The CDC recommends masks that:

  • Completely cover your nose and mouth;
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps; and
  • Have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.

Given the transmissibility of omicron, it is more important than ever to wear the right mask and to wear it correctly. Multiple sources indicate that simple, readily available surgical masks perform better than single-layer fabric masks to protect the wearer and those around them from getting infected. 

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Can I use an at-home antigen test for pre-arrival testing?

We know testing is very difficult to secure right now in some areas, so if an at-home rapid test is what you are able to do, that is fine. Not only does pre-arrival testing help identify any positive cases prior to coming to campus, it also allows positive students to remain at home for the duration of their isolation, which may be a more comfortable option. If a student tests positive on a pre-arrival test, please follow these guidelines.

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If I test positive for COVID-19, may I return home for the duration of my isolation period?

Students who test positive for COVID-19 and can safely return home for the duration of their isolation period, should do so. The Bates Health Services (BHS) support team will be in contact with all students who want to return home to make a safety plan that ensures no additional exposure to others. Students must submit a plan in writing and have it approved by the BHS support team before returning home for the duration of their isolation period. Students who return home are required to be cleared by BHS before returning to campus. 

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Will the college be following the new CDC guidance that was issued on Dec. 27 about isolation for those who test positive for COVID-19?

Yes, the college has already begun following the CDC guidance for isolation.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 will follow isolation protocol. Consistent with this past fall semester, students will either isolate in their current housing if they are in a single bedroom or will be moved to a new housing assignment.

In the event that we should approach or reach the capacity of our isolation housing, asymptomatic positive students will need to isolate in their current housing assignment with alternative arrangements made for roommates who test negative for the disease. While we know this may be disruptive, it will allow us to accommodate a higher number of campus cases before having to consider closing campus.

Termination of isolation will occur after having an appointment with medical staff in Bates Health Services (BHS). Students identified as positive for COVID-19 will have an appointment with BHS after serving five 24-hour periods in isolation. BHS will call to evaluate symptoms for discontinuation starting on day 6. Asymptomatic individuals will likely be released from isolation between days 6 and 10 based on clinical evaluation.

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