Jan. 28: Campus Update for Bates Employees

Colleagues,

As ever, thank you for all you do. We’ve had a busy January, complete with snow, rain, ice, and frigid temperatures – with another winter storm set for this weekend.

Recent testing of students and employees continues to identify cases of COVID-19, as posted on the Bates website. We experienced positive rates of 1.2% and 1.9% from testing last week and 3.7% and 2.2% from testing this week. This afternoon, we have 122 active COVID-19 cases, representing 109 students and 13 employees.

Based on multiple media reports and our consultation with infectious disease experts, we have every reason to believe that this omicron wave of COVID-19 will resolve quickly over the coming days and weeks. However, current numbers among our students are moving in the wrong direction, and we must work together now to lower overall transmission on campus. Since returning for the winter semester, contact tracing shows that the vast majority of the student cases of COVID-19 resulted from unmasked social gatherings, large and small. Similarly, the majority of employee cases are not linked to cases on campus. Earlier today, Josh McIntosh sent this message to all students, explaining various policy changes and asking for their cooperation.

Following Clinical Guidance

While the current levels of COVID are higher than we’d like to see, we also need to make sure we are tracking the science, following clinical guidance, and setting policies and behavior accordingly.

  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated, boosted, and consistently wear masks indoors have a very low chance of getting infected.
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated, boosted, and consistently wear masks indoors have a very low chance of getting seriously ill or being hospitalized.

With high vaccination rates on campus, our masking policies, and our ongoing testing, Bates continues to be a safe place to work, study, and live. While nobody wants to be infected with COVID, preventive measures that are widely available significantly reduce the risks of infection. Masks continue to be highly effective in preventing infection, and with vaccinated and boosted populations, infections from omicron have been milder than previous strains of COVID.

Actions You Can Take for Yourself, Your Colleagues, and for Bates

Our core pillars of public health have been remarkably constant throughout the pandemic.

  • Bates strongly encourages all employees to be vaccinated and boosted.
  • Masking is required in all indoor spaces with a surgical mask, KN95, N95, or similar. The CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.
  • Test yourself for COVID and watch for potential symptoms. Employees are encouraged to use the testing center on campus in Muskie Archives.
  • Wash your hands and pay attention to basic hygiene. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the campus to make this simple and easy.
  • Be mindful of appropriate distancing when circumstances permit, particularly in environments where vaccination, testing, and masking is uncertain.

These multiple levels of protection are a proven, effective strategy for COVID, and other transmissible diseases, on campus, in the community, and at home. By following these simple steps each day, your likelihood of contracting COVID-19, or experiencing significant symptoms if you do, will be low.

Again, thank you for all you do on campus. We will continue to update the campus through the COVID website and through communications to the community, as we have throughout the pandemic.

Thank you,

Geoff