Campus Operations and Business Continuity Update

Williams staff, faculty, students,

Things and stuff are happening, to quote Tina Turner. I’d briefly imagined we’d have less to announce this week, but events have put the lie to that notion.

Before I jump into the part about Williams, Maud asked me to touch on Governor Baker’s decision to let the state’s masking mandate in K-12 schools lapse at the end of February. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will end its masking requirement for licensed childcare providers on the same date.

Lots of folks in our community have children enrolled in Massachusetts schools and preschools/daycares. The state’s plan allows individual school districts and facilities to set their own policies, so educators will now need to assess the data and decide what’s right for their circumstances.

In other words, it’s our old friend uncertainty again. I won’t even call for folks to be patient this time, everyone’s tired of patience. But you’re going to need to exercise it whether I say anything or not, so: thank you.

 

Here on campus we’ve decided to open things up a step, since our campus rates of positivity and spread first stabilized and then declined. We’re going to move gradually, though: while some people are publicly calling for the college to drop Covid restrictions altogether, plenty of others are asking us not to. It’s not a clear-cut choice either way, despite claims to the contrary. But we’ve developed a plan that can always be scaled back if problems emerge. Measured progress is the new catchphrase.

Here’s an overview of what we’re moving to:

Student policies

  • Students, effective immediately, you can unmask in all residence halls just like last fall.
  • You’re also allowed to eat and drink anywhere indoors, except classrooms. If you’re not in a dorm, mask back up when you’re not actively eating or drinking.
    • FYI that Paresky isn’t a dorm: You can unmask there while eating, but have to re-mask while studying, hanging out, etc.
  • Participants in varsity athletics and official club sports, RSO activities and arts performances can now unmask indoors while you’re actively engaged in such activities. For in-season varsity athletes this includes indoor practices.
  • Masks are still required in the following athletics and wellness settings:
    • While entering and exiting campus Athletics facilities
    • In meeting spaces and locker rooms in those same buildings
    • In the upper and lower Lasell fitness centers
    • During out-of-season varsity sport activities
    • During pickup games (i.e., when members of the baseball team are playing basketball)
    • During team travel
  • The Campus Life crew has posted new masking rules for RSOs and club sports, too.
  • Starting next Monday, students only have to test once a week—not twice, as previously.
  • We’re also introducing some changes specifically to help students in isolation:
    • You can now leave isolation and go to Paresky to pick up your own meals to go, as long as you stay masked the whole time and don’t make any side trips.
    • You can use the GET Mobile app to order ahead from the ’82 Grill, Fresh ’n Go, Lee Snack Bar or Whitman’s. Or you can swipe into Whitmans and go through the buffet line if you prefer. Please take the food back to your room—you’re not allowed to stay and dine in person until you’ve been released from isolation.
    • While you’re in Paresky you can also stop by the mailroom to pick up mail and packages.
    • On Day 5 of isolation the Health Center will invite you to come get a rapid test there. (Please don’t go until instructed to do so.) If your result is negative they’ll give you permission to move out of isolation. If it’s positive they’ll give you a set of five more rapid tests. You’ll then test daily in your room and will be allowed to leave isolation once you test negative.

Please make the most of the new opportunities while respecting the rules that remain in place for your and everyone’s safety.

Events can now be opened to off-campus spectators

  • College events and performances can now include off-campus spectators at the organizers’ discretion.
  • Almost all athletics events are now open to the public, too. Regretfully, we can’t allow this at wrestling matches, due to a lack of sufficient space for distancing.
  • Organizers: If you want to allow off-campus guests at your event you’ll have to limit attendance to 50% of venue capacity, check that everyone’s fully vaccinated and ensure that they stay masked while in attendance.
    • To avoid confusion, please note in your publicity whether or not the public is allowed (this includes Events calendar entries, Daily Messages, social media and website posts, etc.).
  • Food and drink are allowed at events now, too.
  • Check the college events calendar and the Ephsports site to see which specific programs or performances are open to folks from off campus.

Student gatherings and events (a recap)

Students, you received an email from Mike Bodnarik this week explaining the new rules for student-specific gatherings and events. Here’s a recap of anything not covered above:

  • Plans have to be proposed and approved in advance, as explained on the Room Scheduler.
  • If hosts/servers or crowd managers are required, you must submit your request at least a week in advance. This pertains to any events in spaces listed under the Room Scheduler headings for Large Residential Space, Paresky Center and Goodrich Hall.
  • If you want to allow off-campus guests, you must notify Mike Bodnarik at least three days in advance. Please include a plan for how you’ll check attendees’ vaccination status and ensure masking. And since you’ll have to limit attendance to 50 percent of venue capacity, we encourage you to require advance reservations or create a guest list.

The Campus Life website lists these and other rules and resources pertaining to RSOs and club sports.

Masks

I’ve received a few questions about what kinds of masks and respirators are or aren’t allowed. Here’s a quick summary:

  • KN95s, K94s and N95s are all OK if properly worn and maintained.
  • Cloth masks are OK only if worn with a paper surgical mask underneath.
  • Cloth alone isn’t a sufficient barrier to transmission, so a cloth mask used on its own isn’t acceptable. Students, if you show up wearing one your instructors have the right to ask you to go mask properly before attending. Staff, this rule applies to us, too, and managers will remind anyone who isn’t fully masked.

We’re expecting our next shipment of masks for mass distribution to arrive next Wednesday. Faculty, staff and students who didn’t get an initial batch because you were out of the testing program can pick some up at the Facilities office, 60 Latham Street, between 7 AM and 4 PM on weekdays. Everyone else, please continue to use the ones you have, and we’ll announce the next wave of pickup options once the shipment arrives.

Close contacts

Staff and faculty, please use the covid-info-facstaff​@williams​.edu address to communicate with HR about Covid-related questions, including positive results or close contacts. It will enable us to can keep track of issues and have someone get back to you promptly.

 

That’s it for this week. With the weather warming up a bit, instruction and dining back to in-person, and a little more latitude for students to relax, I hope the coming days can be pleasant ones.

Jim