Preparing for Campus Reopening - Operations and Business Continuity Update

To the Williams community,

This is the first of what we expect will be a weekly series of emails from the COVID-19 Operations and Business Continuity Committee with updates on the process for preparing to return this fall.

A major area of focus right now is testing, so we wanted to share the details available so far, with more to come soon. We encourage staff to attend next Monday’s staff town hall for additional information. Faculty will be able to discuss these issues at the extraordinary meeting on August 12.

Who’s required to take the test?

  • If your job brings you into frequent and/or regular contact with other faculty, staff or students, you’ll be required to get tested weekly.

  • If you’re likely to come to campus or interact in these ways even occasionally, please assume you should get tested weekly even though it’s not required. The greater the share of our community that gets a test, the more we can limit the risk of contagion.

  • If you’re working entirely remotely or only come to campus rarely and work in an isolated environment, you’re not required to get a test but are welcome to opt in. We’ll provide instructions on how to do so in a future update.

  • If you’re uncertain about your status or have questions, contact Director of Human Resources Danielle Gonzalez (for staff) or Dean of Faculty Safa Zaki (for faculty).

What kind of test will it be?

  • We’ll use a minimally invasive swab of the lower nasal cavity (that is, just inside your nostril), known as an “anterior nares swab.” You’ll be asked to self-administer the swab in the presence of trained observers, who’ll collect your sample for testing.

  • Samples will be tested by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. They’ve assured us of their ability to meet our testing needs and will return the results in 24 to 48 hours.

  • People have asked whether the college can offer tests to family members or community members, and in an ideal world we’d do so. But the Broad program is focused on supporting Massachusetts colleges and universities, and our contract only allows for testing faculty, staff and students. We’ve shared other possibilities with town leaders as they explore options for community testing. One way we can help the people of our area is by testing as many Williams staff and faculty as possible, since that makes the whole community safer.

When and where will I get tested?

  • Testing will start the week of Monday, August 17, and will be offered from 8 a.m. to 5p.m. every weekday. A communication will be forthcoming next week to provide detailed information about faculty and staff scheduling of testing.

  • The location is the Whitman Street garage and includes walk-up and drive-by testing.

  • There will be an online portal and app used for scheduling.

  • Walk-up testing will be by appointment only and you’ll be given a specific time slot during which to sign in (everyone will have to swipe in using their college I.D.).

  • We will also have a drive-in testing option at the beginning of the semester. The Broad Institute has applied to the FDA for approval for an unobserved, self-administered test. When they get that approval we plan to switch to these unobserved tests on a walk-up basis for faculty and staff to make it more convenient.

What will happen after I’m tested?

  • Essential employees who have already been working may continue working while awaiting test results.

  • Everyone else will be asked not to come to campus until you’ve received your results.

  • Negative results will be available in the online portal and app, clearing you to come to campus.

  • If you test positive, several steps will follow:

    • You’ll be notified by a healthcare professional and instructed to contact your primary health care provider, who’ll be responsible for your care.

    • Notification will also be sent to the Office of Human Resources, and medical personnel will notify state officials.

    • A member of the state’s contact tracing team will contact you, and you’ll be expected to participate fully in their tracing efforts.

    • Do not come to campus until you have been cleared by your physician and by the college to return.

    • For faculty members who are asymptomatic or only mildly ill, you may be able to continue teaching remotely. If you are unable to teach for medical reasons, please contact your department or program chair about class coverage. But note that you are not required to share your diagnosis.

    • Even if you are asymptomatic, staff and faculty will be expected to remain off campus for a minimum of 10 days after the date of the positive result.

    • If your physician finds that your illness requires a more extensive medical treatment and leave, please provide documentation to Human Resources.

    • You will be required to provide a medical clearance to return to work to Human Resources. The college may require that you seek followup testing or supply medical documentation and a physician’s release.

What kind of public health protocols will the college have on campus?

  • As a reminder, Williams will continue to be closed to visitors and the public.

  • Sanitizer will be available in every workspace, classroom and gathering place.

  • The college will issue three fabric face coverings for each employee. We’ll provide these to offices and departments, who will distribute them to you as part of your unit’s reopening plan.

  • Face coverings will be required in all buildings and enclosed spaces, and outdoors during prolonged contact with others (defined as being closer than 6 feet to someone for more than 15 minutes at a time)

  • The college will have a store of backup fabric face coverings, as well as disposable face coverings for those who need replacements or for temporary use.

  • Face shields will not be required, except in specific circumstances. Note that, per CDC guidelines, face shields aren’t generally an acceptable substitute for face coverings. Employees who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons (documentation will be required) will be asked to wear specialized shields provided by the college.

  • There will be signage across campus to guide traffic flow and deter gatherings in shared public spaces.

There’s much more information to come and we will endeavor to update you weekly on many more important operational topics. Please be on the lookout for the scheduling email regarding faculty and staff testing.

I hope as many staff members as possible will attend next Monday’s staff town hall, and that faculty will join the discussion at the August 12th meeting, both of which will be excellent forums for sharing further news and taking your questions.

In the meantime, you can also contact any of us directly with questions, or submit them through the Covid comment portal.

Thank you for doing your part to help keep us all safe,

Danielle Gonzalez, Director of Human Resources
Matt Sheehy, Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration
Fred Puddester, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer