COVID-19 Spring Semester Guidance—January 10, 2022

Dear students, faculty, and staff,
We are steadily gearing up for the beginning of the spring semester on January 24. Fresh snow is on the ground, and a number of athletes and other students are already back, and the sophomore class is preparing for the Sophomore Bootcamp program that begins on campus next week.
As we all know, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing a surge in infections across the country at levels not previously seen. Unfortunately, Maine is not an exception, with the number of COVID-19 patients in our state’s hospitals holding steady at a record high. The good news is that vaccines and booster shots are doing their job of keeping those fully vaccinated from becoming seriously ill or hospitalized.
I am writing to share with you our plans for the start of the spring semester. The highlights are:
  • The semester will begin as scheduled on Monday, January 24, and all students should be back on campus by Sunday, January 23, unless they are recovering from COVID-19 or have tested positive with a prearrival antigen test.
  • All students, faculty, and staff must have received their vaccine booster by Friday, January 21 (except for the handful of individuals who may not be eligible because of the timing of their second vaccination shot).
  • For the first week (January 24–28), classes will be held remotely to ensure an equitable start to the semester for all students, allowing students who will need to remain at home because of a positive COVID test and those who test positive when they arrive on campus to engage in classes during the critical start of courses.
  • Students will take rapid antigen tests before leaving home and again upon arrival and will resume their normal twice-a-week PCR tests the week of January 24.
  • Because the testing center will be open on Mondays and Thursdays ONLY this semester, students must test on both Monday and Thursday. Faculty and staff must test once a week and may do so on either day.
  • Meals will be grab-and-go until at least two rounds of PCR tests have been completed (likely to be Saturday, January 29, at the earliest) and the dining halls will be limited to students ONLY until further notice.
  • Asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic students who test positive will recover in place in their rooms, and not move to separate isolation housing.
  • You should use either a surgical mask or a KN-95 mask. Cloth masks are no longer acceptable.
  • We will maintain the same hybrid work structure for staff that was used last semester.

Please read this message carefully. It covers the following topics:

  1. Arrival Week
    1. prearrival testing
    2. arrival testing
    3. grab-and-go meals
    4. classes
    5. off-campus travel
  2. Booster Requirement
  3. Proper Masks
  4. Campus Status Levels and Positive Case Notifications
  5. Ongoing PCR Testing
  6. Isolation Procedures for Those Who Test Positive
  7. Athletics
  8. Dining
  9. Student Programming and Activities
  10. Travel
  11. Visitors
  12. Academic and Administrative Building and Room Occupancy

1. Arrival Week

 All students should be back on campus by Sunday evening, January 23, except for those students who are recovering from COVID-19 or who test positive on an antigen test prior to departing home.
 
As in the past, the first week back (January 24–31) will be important in our efforts to successfully launch the semester. To assist in these efforts, the College is requiring:
  • prearrival and arrival antigen testing
  • PCR testing
  • grab-and-go meals
  • remote classes (for one week only)

Students are asked to observe a “hibearnation” period upon arrival until they receive their initial PCR test result. This means you should:

  • remain as much as possible in your residence halls;
  • pick up food to go from the dining halls;
  • wear your surgical or KN-95 mask whenever you are with other people;
  • eat in your rooms; and
  • generally minimize interactions with others until you have tested negative for COVID-19 using a PCR test.

a.) Prearrival Testing

As detailed in my message to students and parents/family members on Thursday, each student is required to take an at-home rapid antigen test before returning to campus, in addition to the required testing upon arrival. Students should look for an at-home test as soon as possible, since supplies are limited, and take the test within twelve hours of their departure for the College. The College will reimburse students for the cost of the test, if requested. Students who test positive for COVID-19 should NOT travel and should contact Bowdoin Health Services (207-725-3770; healthservices@bowdoin.edu) to discuss a return-to-campus plan. After taking prearrival tests, students are asked to limit unmasked contact with others.

b.) Arrival Testing

As previously announced, students will be required to take an observed rapid antigen test immediately upon their return to campus, and then a PCR test on a test date closest to their arrival. Students should pick up an observed eMed rapid test kit at the OneCard office in Coles Tower and perform the test immediately upon return to campus following the break (this includes students who will be returning early for athletics, Sophomore Boot Camp, or for other reasons). The OneCard office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and will also be open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 22, and Sunday, January 23. Students are asked to follow all instructions so that the test can be observed through eMed and documented. If students arrive after the OneCard office is closed, they may pick up an eMed rapid test kit at security (9 Bath Road). If positive, they should isolate in place and await further instructions to come the next day.

IMPORTANT: Students who do not take an observed eMed antigen test when returning to campus will not have OneCard access to campus facilities, including residence halls and dining.

PCR testing will be on the following dates:

Monday, January 10—8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 13—8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 19—8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 22—11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday, January 24—8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

c.) Grab-and-Go Meals

All meals will be grab-and-go at least until we have received the results of two rounds of PCR testing (likely to be Saturday, January 29, at the earliest).

d.) Classes

Classes begin for all students on Monday, January 24. With Omicron, there is the possibility that a number of students will test positive before leaving home and will therefore not be able to travel to campus or will test positive upon arrival and will be in isolation. To ensure that every student has the ability to begin their courses on an equivalent basis, all classes will be held remotely for arrival week only (January 24–28). All classes will be held in person beginning on Monday, January 31.

e.) Off-Campus Travel

We ask that students limit their trips off campus during the first week of classes. Students should come to campus with all the items that they will need for their first week, including medications, toiletries, school supplies, and other items. Students who volunteer or work in the community should not participate in those activities during this time.

2. Booster Requirement

As previously announced to the campus community, effective on January 21, 2022, Bowdoin is requiring all students, faculty, and staff to receive a COVID-19 booster shot within thirty (30) days of becoming eligible. Those who received Pfizer or Moderna shots for their primary series of vaccinations are now eligible for their booster five months after receiving their second dose.
To verify that you have had the required booster shot please submit a copy of your vaccination record card no later than Friday, January 21. Students should submit their information to the student health portal. Faculty and staff should follow these instructions to enter booster vaccination information in Workday (instructions are also available on the Workday log-in page).
IMPORTANT: Students eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccination who have not submitted their booster information by January 21 may not return to campus. Students who arrive on campus without having uploaded their booster information will not have access to their rooms or to campus dining.
A booster clinic for students, faculty, and staff will be held on campus on Wednesday, January 19, in partnership with Mid Coast Hospital. Details will be provided in a separate communication.

3. Proper Masks

Only surgical, KN95, or equivalent (N95, KF-94) masks are acceptable on the Bowdoin campus. Cloth masks are no longer approved for use at the College. Masks are required at all times in indoor settings except when eating or in private offices. Masks must also be worn inside college vehicles carrying more than one person.
Surgical masks are available at no cost to members of the Bowdoin community and may be obtained at the OneCard office on the ground floor of Coles Tower and at the testing center in Farley Field House.
You may have seen that effective this Wednesday (January 12) the Town of Brunswick is requiring masks when inside a public building (e.g., grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc.).

4. Campus Status Levels and Positive Case Notifications

For additional clarity, we are moving from the previous color-coded campus status levels (green, yellow, orange, or red) to specific guidelines and restrictions that will be updated as needed on the website and through email messages.
The College will post a daily accounting of new and active cases of COVID-19 on the Spring 2022 COVID-19 Dashboard beginning tomorrow but will no longer issue email notifications to the community about new cases.

5. Ongoing PCR Testing

In a higher positivity-rate environment, pooled testing is more inconvenient for many of the individuals being tested and more burdensome to manage for the College. As a result, we are delaying the start of the previously announced pooled testing program for now and will continue instead with the individual PCR testing program used since the start of the pandemic. This means there are no changes to the testing process from last semester.
Beginning the week of January 24, the testing center in Farley Field House will be open this semester on Mondays and Thursdays ONLY from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Students must test on Monday and Thursday; faculty and staff are required to test once a week and may test on either day, according to their schedules.
IMPORTANT: Students who have more than two unexcused missed tests may be cited for conduct violations by the Office of the Dean of Students.
The College will no longer provide weekly antigen test kits to faculty and staff but will run an observed antigen testing station at the Farley Field House testing center every week, Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for students and employees with symptoms.

6. Isolation Procedures for Those Who Test Positive

The College is adopting the CDC’s recommendation of a reduced isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19. This means that fully vaccinated students, faculty, or staff will need to isolate for a minimum of five days (instead of the previous ten-day requirement), with “Day Zero” being “the day of symptom onset or (if asymptomatic) the day of collection of the first positive specimen.”
Due to the possibility of a number of positive cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant and the likelihood that fully vaccinated and boosted individuals may be asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms, we are changing our isolation process and will not be separately housing every student who tests positive, instead reserving isolation housing for any students with more serious symptoms.

Students who test positive and who have the ability to go home via a private vehicle may isolate at home.

(Added for clarification on January 31): To end isolation students, faculty, and staff must:

  • have isolated for at least 5 days after a positive test;
  • be asymptomatic OR be fever-free for twenty-four (24) hours with clearly improving symptoms; and
  • receive a negative result on a rapid antigen test. 
Students released from isolation, and faculty and staff who end isolation at home, are required to wear masks at all times (other than when eating or alone in a private space) for five days after leaving isolation.
Students recovering in place or in college-provided isolation housing are responsible for contacting their professors for assistance with missed classwork.
Faculty and staff who test positive should contact Mary Cote in Human Resources (725-3033 / mcote@bowdoin.edu).

7. Athletics

NESCAC institutions are limiting spectators to students, faculty, and staff participating in host institution testing programs through the month of January, at least.
 
Members of the Bowdoin community are NOT permitted to attend home contests during arrival week (January 22–31). This restriction will be reevaluated after the results are in for the first two rounds of PCR testing. Once the restriction above is lifted, Bowdoin students, faculty, and staff participating in the Bowdoin COVID testing program will be permitted to attend home contests but must be masked at all times. Students, faculty, and staff will need to display their Bowdoin ID in order to enter home events. Bowdoin spectators are not permitted at away contests hosted by NESCAC institutions. Spectators are permitted at outdoor contests.

8. Dining

After the initial grab-and-go period, Bowdoin dining facilities in Thorne Hall and Moulton Union will be opened for students only until further notice. For the time being, to reduce both the density and the impact on dining service staff of providing additional meals, faculty and staff will not be permitted to dine in these facilities. Students must remain masked at all times unless actively eating and are asked to leave the dining halls as soon as they have finished their meals, so that others may enter the facilities.

9. Student Programming and Activities

We anticipate resuming student activities, programming, and other events once we have the results of the first two rounds of PCR tests (no earlier than Saturday, January 29). There should be no student social events until other activities have resumed.

10. Travel

College-sponsored professional travel for faculty and staff is permitted in accordance with CDC guidelines and standard College travel policies are in effect.

11. Visitors

Visitors who are not participating in the Bowdoin testing program are not permitted inside the residence halls. Unlike the other restrictions above, this is not limited to the first week of the semester, but something that will be in place for the foreseeable future.
 
College-sponsored events will be permitted to host visitors to campus (this includes lectures, admissions, athletic teams). For guidance on hosting visitors, contractors, and job applicants on campus, please click here.

12. Academic and Administrative Building and Room Occupancy

With the exception of dining halls, campus buildings and rooms will be at normal occupancy. Faculty and staff should exercise caution while eating meals with others in break rooms and kitchen areas.
 
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This plan is designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to manage any positive cases while allowing us the opportunity to resume the work and activities of the College. With your cooperation, care, and attention, we anticipate loosening many of these restrictions in the days ahead.
 
Thank you for all you are doing to keep one another and our neighbors in Brunswick safe and healthy in the new year.
 
Sincerely,
 
Mike Ranen