The Spring Semester (February 3, 2021)
To the Bowdoin community,
With just a couple of days until our students arrive on campus and less than a week until classes begin, I hope you are well and as excited as I am to get the spring semester underway. We are delighted that so many of our students will be on campus. We will miss those who will not be here and we look forward to engaging with them throughout the semester.
While we learned a great deal in the fall about how to keep each other and the larger community safe, the current intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic means we will need to be even more vigilant this spring. Within the last few weeks, Maine has had a higher number of infections and hospitalizations than at any time during the pandemic, and there is still much that is not known about the new variants of the virus.
Our plan for the spring is designed to protect the safety of all of us on campus and those in the Brunswick community, some of whom are very much at risk. Our success depends on our collective ability to be disciplined in our care for one another and to establish and maintain a “bubble” through four simple but essential steps:
- wear a mask properly, covering both your mouth and your nose;
- remain physically distanced and avoid large gatherings;
- practice good hygiene; and
- show up as scheduled for your COVID-19 tests.
Adhering to these four steps has a profound impact on preventing transmission of the virus, regardless of whether you are on campus, living nearby, or studying remotely. For those who will not be with us this semester, please consult with your state’s CDC or comparable public health agency or with your primary care physician for guidelines and assistance, including information on COVID-19 testing in your area. Those of you who will be on campus will see and hear a lot about the above four steps. If you forget, you’ll be reminded by fellow students, by faculty and staff, or by people in town, not as a criticism but because these are the things that give us the best chance of staying safe, of staying together, and of seeing the semester through to its conclusion in May. And, when you notice that one of us—any of us—has forgotten, I hope you will be the one who does the reminding.
As we work our way through the spring, there is great hope that the nation’s vaccination efforts will ramp up and that the real dangers posed by this pandemic will begin to recede. But we are not there yet. We will do what we can to assist those in our community to obtain a vaccination as they qualify, but the State of Maine decides which individuals will be vaccinated in what order—we do not control this. It is important to emphasize that even those who have been vaccinated must continue to wear face coverings, stay physically distant, practice good hygiene, and show up for scheduled COVID-19 tests.
In the fall we had a very small number of positive tests among the campus community. It is almost certain that the numbers will be higher this semester, perhaps significantly higher. We all need to be prepared for higher numbers of positive tests among students, faculty, and staff and a higher number of individuals who need to be isolated and quarantined.
While this is a challenging period, I remain confident in our plan. Our faculty have prepared excellent courses that begin on Monday, and student affairs is ready to help our students create virtual communities with various ways to interact online while we establish our bubble. Once that is accomplished, and if we are successful in limiting infections by observing the four steps described above, there will be more and more opportunities for those on campus to interact in person as winter retreats and we move into the Maine spring. We will observe a special “Hibearnation” (Arrival) Status beginning with the arrival of students this weekend and continuing until we are certain that we can move safely to one of our regular status levels, and I ask you all to adhere to these restrictions as we establish our bubble.
We have published a series of messages, responses to frequently asked questions, and TikTok videos to explain the process for arrival day and our expectations for the first several weeks, and to answer your other questions about the spring semester. A new “Campus Guide to Spring 2021” provides comprehensive information, and our COVID-19 dashboard continues to be updated regularly. Please take the time to review and refer to these resources in the coming days.
For those about to travel, please take every precaution to protect your health. And, for those who will be studying remotely this semester, stay safe and stay connected. It is my great hope and my expectation that these will be the last months when we will have to be apart and that the days ahead will brighten for you, your families, and our college.
All the best,