Campus Operations and Business Continuity Update

Williams, students, staff and faculty,

We’d hoped not to need to send so many Covid Ops emails this fall. Apparently we’d forgotten how much students breathe on each other. Ease up, will you?

Meanwhile, here are the latest campus updates on the Covid situation:

Case counts

Starting now, we’ll share case counts with you whenever I send these emails. As of today we have:

  • 110 current student positives. This is down from 165 last Friday, and the total is expected to decline further in the next few days, given the number of people almost done with isolation.
  • 31 current faculty/staff positives.

Re: the latter, I keep waiting for even one student to ask me about faculty and staff rates. It’s fine, it’s not like we expected you to care or anything. But still.

Anyway, we’re alright. So let up already, give us some space. Geez.

Why didn’t we share the totals right from the start of the term? The challenge is in the data itself. As you might guess, a voluntary, symptomatic self-testing program tends to underestimate the true positivity rate because it’s missing asymptomatic positives, people who don’t report their positive results, etc. Our feeling was that it thus might contribute to a false sense of security.

And yet… you asked for the numbers, and we heard you. So now you’ll get the information regularly, paired with my droning reminders about the likelihood of an undercount. Caveat lector.

Testing

Apparently I’ve meanwhile managed to create confusion about our antigen test program. It’s an outcome I call “just another day at the office.” Sorry. To clarify, here are the intended uses of the free college tests:

  • Weekly asymptomatic testing
  • Symptomatic testing
  • Testing out of isolation, per instructions from Residential Life and Housing

And here are a few of the infinity things the swabs shouldn’t be used for:

  • Pet care
  • Applying eyeliner before a weekend shift at Hot Topic
  • Daily asymptomatic testing, or even multiple times per day

That last one’s actually happening. If you’ve heard that the mailroom is running out of tests (which they have been), or experienced the shortage yourself, this is why. We have plenty of tests to meet the community’s actual needs under the terms of the program. Facilities also provides a restock whenever the mailroom runs out. But if people request lots of extra tests and use them daily for stuff they don’t actually work for, it’s going to eat up the available supply and meanwhile deprive other people of the means to test.

So, please: be community-minded, use the tests for their intended purpose, and find another way to groom your iguana.

Masks

Ditto KN95 masks, which people have been picking up in droves and then discarding after one use, causing a lot of unnecessary waste. The KN95s distributed by the college are generally safe for multiple days of use as long as they’re properly cared for. The CDC has good resources on mask care and guidelines for how long they’re usable. Then, when they’re soiled for real, recycle them in the mask recycling bins around campus.

If you need actual disposable masks for actual one-time use, you can actually pick up some actual surgical face coverings from the Facilities stockroom instead. We’ve got tons.

Seasonal illness

Remember the before-Covid times, when fall was known as “cold and flu season”? Don’t worry: Your favorite old-fashioned ailments haven’t gone away! They’ve just gone into hiding, behind the Covid data.

Even if you’ve had Covid ten times by now, bathe in booster juice daily, and are living in a Ziploc bag, be careful: Other goo is out there waiting to get you, too, and people are being got.

Fortunately, masks help protect you from many viruses and allergens, not just Covid. Plus everyone looks better with face sweat. So mask up! You’ll thank me later when you’re still not sick.

Boosters

As I mentioned in my last message, the new Omicron boosters are now pretty widely available around our area, including at the Walgreens on Route 2, the Stop & Shop and the CVS in North Adams, among others. I scored a next-day appointment, and had lots of time slots to choose from. Many of the locations are accessible via foot, bike, Berkshire Transit, etc., as well as car. Now you can even use the new bike trail if you want!

Each chain has their own website for scheduling appointments. You can generally get the flu vaccine at the same time if eligible: the CDC recommends getting each shot in a different arm, up to two arms per person.

Meanwhile, we’re signing a deal to host an on-campus booster clinic in late October. Look for details in a future message. HR is planning flu clinics for staff and faculty. And students, we’ll in touch about campus flu shots for you, too.

A brief reminder about walking

We’ve received expressions of genuine concern from worried local residents who are seeing pedestrians crossing Route 2 without looking up from their phones, and thus almost getting run over. Those crosswalk lines on the pavement are legally binding in principle, but good luck telling that to a speeding car as it intersects your body. Please, and I mean please, look up from your phone for a hot minute, press the button to activate those crosswalk flashers, and make sure the driver sees you before you step out.

I’ve personally experienced drivers being aggressive along that stretch of road. So we’ll look into that, too. But we’d rather you be intact and slightly aggrieved, than spread in a million righteous pieces.

That’s all for now. To sum up: wear a mask indoors, test in accordance with the program, get boosted, look both ways when you cross the street, and generally take care of yourselves. Also, eat your vegetables and smile once in a while, it wouldn’t kill you.

Really, have a great start to the term. It’s quite lovely to have you all back here, and we’ll get through the Covid-ity together, I feel sure.

Jim