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President Bradley Provides an Update on Campus COVID-19 Response and Cases

Dear all,

I am writing to let you know where we are with the COVID-19 response and cases on campus. We are doing well overall; however, we have had 17 students test positive since August 8th when we started the move-in. Of these 17, 11 remain in isolation as active cases. In addition, another 33 students are in self-quarantine for 14 days because they were close contacts of someone who tested positive.

A “close contact” is anyone who has been within six feet (masked or not) of someone who tests positive, for 15 minutes or more. As we look at the cases so far, a danger zone is eating together—please have no more than two people at a picnic table and sit diagonally, and if you eat inside with others, you should be in a large space (not a dorm room) and at least six feet away at all times.

Let’s talk masks during Phase 1 (through September 7). Masks are one of the simplest, most effective defenses against COVID-19 spread. A face shield alone and masks with vents are not adequate for campus. Because we are very eager to reduce spread on campus (which will reduce self-quarantine and keep the school open), we are changing the masking policy slightly. Here are the expectations:

Wear a mask always unless you are in your room with your roommates only, alone in your office, or outdoors and at least six feet away from anyone and stationary.

Eating: When you are eating/drinking and must remove your mask, be sure to be at least six feet away from everyone. If you are eating at a picnic table, please have no more than two people at the picnic table. We understand you may be eating with roommates (more than one other) but if so, please do not use the picnic tables during this Phase 1 period, so we can manage the density and accountability better.

Exercising: Exercising outdoors in groups of up to four is allowed, but only if you can maintain six feet of separation at all times; masks under this condition are not required. For example, you may not play spike ball or pick-up basketball because you will not be able to maintain six feet separation, but you may kick a soccer ball around or hold a Zumba class as long as you maintain six feet separation at all times.

Class time: Masks must be worn by students and faculty at all times in classes whether under a tent or inside. Face shields are not an adequate substitute for masks. Clear masks are available as needed to accommodate lip reading.

People who do not wear masks as required, who gather inside at all or who gather outside in groups of more than 10, or who leave campus without prior approval can be banned from campus to study remotely for the semester. Employees, including faculty, who do not abide by these requirements could be referred for disciplinary action.

Let’s all help each other. Remind people to wear masks. Thank those who remind you to wear your mask. If you are concerned about the health and safety of the community based on gatherings of more than 10, lack of mask wearing, or seeing on-campus students in Arlington or Poughkeepsie, please call the CRC (if it is urgent), or contact the CCT for further review.

As classes begin Monday, many students have had a pre-arrival test, all had another test on Day 1 or 2 of their arrival on campus, and many will have completed a second 7-day test. This gives us some confidence; nevertheless, one cannot know if others are positive (as one may not show symptoms), so please be careful and treat everyone as if they are potentially infectious. The third round of testing for students and employees living on campus will be 14 days after their 7-day test. Based on the data, we will decide on additional testing—possible every two weeks. We will continue to update you on this.

With your help, we can do this. Thank you for living out the concept of “We precedes me.”

Thanks,

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President

VASSAR COLLEGE
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
@EHBVassar