Fall 2022 COVID-19 Protocols (August 3, 2022)

To the Bowdoin campus community,

I am writing to update you on our COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester. As we know by now, things can (and will likely) change, and we will adjust, if necessary, but these plans will guide us through the coming academic year. We will continue to communicate with the campus as necessary, and for the latest information you can always visit the COVID-19 website.

The following is a summary of our fall semester protocols. Please see the details below.

  • COVID-19 vaccinations are required; flu vaccinations will be required for students and are strongly suggested for faculty and staff.
  • No PCR surveillance testing on campus—the COVID-19 dashboard has been discontinued.
  • PCR or rapid antigen testing is required prior to return to campus.
  • Masks are welcome but not required unless symptomatic, COVID-19 positive, close contact, or exempt for vaccinations.
  • Minimum five-day isolation is required for those symptomatic or COVID-19 positive.
  • Grab-and-go meals will be available for students who test positive.
  • All campus buildings will be open to the public.
  • Athletics will operate normally.
  • While the risk remains low, the College is monitoring the development of monkeypox in Maine, the US, and around the world.
  • Questions should be submitted to covidtsa@bowdoin.edu or 207-208-2514.

STATE OF THE VIRUS

The SARS-COV-2 virus, with its many variants, will clearly be with us for the foreseeable future, and our priorities now are to protect the health and safety of our community and to return to a normal or as close as possible to a normal Bowdoin College education and experience. Importantly, the health and safety imperative very much includes mental as well as physical health.

The good news is that, to date, the virus variants that cause COVID-19, while more communicable, cause less severe disease for those who are fully vaccinated. Vaccinations, in addition to providing profound protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and worse, also play a role in reducing the transmission of the virus. There are now effective drugs available to treat those who do become infected and are symptomatic. In addition, for those who choose to wear one, a well-fitting KN-95 mask, or the equivalent, provides excellent protection from the virus, even if others around you are not wearing masks.

Unless a variant of the virus comes into circulation that causes significantly more severe outcomes for fully vaccinated individuals, our plans for the coming semester are:

VACCINATIONS

All students, faculty, and staff are required to be fully vaccinated, and to provide evidence of vaccination (subject to proper medical exemptions for students and medical or religious exemptions for faculty and staff). “Fully vaccinated” means having had an initial series followed by a booster when eligible.

The next generation of booster shots that targets the Omicron coronavirus subvariants is expected to be available as early as September. Those over fifty years old who have not yet received a second booster should consult with their physician about whether to do so now or to wait for the revamped vaccines. Once the new booster is available and recommended by the US CDC, we will require it as well. 

SEASONAL FLU VACCINATIONS 

Students will be required to get a seasonal flu vaccine when they become available. Health Services will provide flu vaccination clinics for students. Flu vaccines are strongly suggested for faculty and staff and will be available this fall at local pharmacies and healthcare providers. To help keep others healthy, those who are symptomatic with the flu or a bad cold should stay away from others and wear a mask until they feel better.

TESTING

We will no longer provide PCR surveillance testing on campus. As a result, the COVID-19 dashboard has been discontinued.

Students are required to test for COVID-19 prior to arriving on campus for the fall semester, using either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test. Students who test positive for COVID-19 should contact their dean and not travel to campus.

Faculty and staff who will be on campus on first-year student arrival day should test for the virus before Tuesday, August 23. Others should test before arriving back on campus for the start of the semester. Those who test positive should notify their department chair/supervisor.

PCR tests must be administered within seventy-two (72) hours prior to August 23 or arrival on campus for the semester, whichever comes first.

Rapid antigen tests must be administered within twenty-four (24) hours prior to August 23 or arrival on campus for the semester, whichever comes first.

Rapid antigen tests are readily available at local drugstores. Symptomatic students can also obtain antigen tests at Health Services during normal hours of operation. Anyone with symptoms can also obtain a test at the OneCard office on the first floor of Coles Tower Monday through Friday, 9:00–11:00 a.m. and 1:00–4:00 p.m.

It is strongly recommended that every student bring at least two rapid antigen test kits with them to start the semester in the event they develop symptoms over a weekend or holiday.

MASKS

Masks are welcome at any time but will not be required in any space on campus, with the following exceptions:

  • Those individuals who are symptomatic or positive for COVID-19 must wear masks.
  • Faculty and staff with vaccination exemptions who are not fully vaccinated must always mask in campus buildings and college vehicles unless they are in their individual offices.
  • Students with vaccination exemptions who are not fully vaccinated must always mask in campus buildings and college vehicles unless they are in their own residence hall rooms.

Bowdoin is a mask-friendly campus, and we encourage anyone who desires to wear a mask to do so with our full support. A well-fitting, high-quality mask provides excellent protection against acquiring the virus, even if others around you are not wearing a mask.

ISOLATION

Those with COVID-19 symptoms are required to wear a mask and to test. Students, faculty, and staff must stay in isolation for a minimum of five (5) full days from symptom onset.

NOTE: Day zero (0) is the first day of symptoms or a positive test, whichever comes first. 

Students will isolate in their residence hall room or, if convenient, at home. After the fifth day, students who have been fever-free for twenty-four (24) hours and whose other symptoms are resolving may resume attending classes and other activities in person.

Faculty and staff must isolate at home for five (5) days and may return to work if they are fever-free for at least twenty-four (24) hours and if their other symptoms are resolving. 

Students, faculty, and staff who test positive must always mask on campus until after day ten (10). Faculty and staff who test positive should notify their department chair/supervisor. Students who test positive will be required to notify the College (student affairs will issue notification instructions at the start of the semester).

CLOSE CONTACTS 

Close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to wear masks indoors and outdoors when with others for a full ten (10) days after exposure, watch for symptoms, and test after day five (5) even if you do not develop symptoms. Masks should only be removed in the company of others while actively eating. 

MEALS FOR THOSE WHO TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

Students who test positive will pick-up “grab and go” meals at the designated side-entry of Thorne Dining Hall and will eat in their rooms or outdoors until after day ten (10). 

Faculty and staff who test positive but have returned to work after day five (5) with resolving or no symptoms should take their meal breaks in a private office, socially distanced area, at home, or outside until after day ten (10).

VISITORS 

Campus buildings will be open to the public. Full-capacity attendance will be permitted at indoor athletic competitions, museums, and events. Signage will direct unvaccinated visitors to wear a mask while visiting buildings on campus, but the College will not check their vaccination status. 

ATHLETICS

Varsity sports practices and games are currently expected to operate normally. 

MONKEYPOX 

The College is monitoring the development of monkeypox cases in Maine, the US, and other parts of the world. To date, there have been two cases of the disease in Maine—one in York County, the other in Penobscot County. While US and Maine health officials expect to see additional cases, monkeypox does not spread as easily as respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 or influenza. It is transmitted by very close contact with a symptomatic person, including physical, skin-to-skin contact, and sexual intimacy. While the risk to the campus community remains low, we are preparing for the possibility of monkeypox cases on campus and will continue to keep the campus community informed about this and any other public health risks. The US CDC website has more information about preventing the spread of monkeypox.

QUESTIONS? 

Questions regarding COVID-19 protocols may be directed to covidtsa@bowdoin.edu and will be routed from there to the appropriate office. Students, faculty, and staff may leave a message at 207-208-2514, and the appropriate administrator will respond within a reasonable timeframe.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As most of you know, Mike Ranen has served as our COVID-19 coordinator for the last two years. I know I speak for all of us when I say that I could not be more grateful to Mike for his extraordinary work. Mike has stepped down from this role, and we will have a decentralized structure in place this year

We should all expect to see cases of COVID-19 on campus, and it is possible that there could be a number of cases at any given time. Again, assuming that any new variant of the virus does not cause significantly more severe health outcomes for those who are fully vaccinated, we will manage these outbreaks using the protocols described above. And, as we have always done, should we face unexpected challenges, we will adjust our protocols.

For some of us, the prospect of returning to largely normal operations will create anxiety. This is to be expected; emotional challenges have been a central part of the pandemic, and we should all recognize this and support one another. Again, full vaccination and wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask provides significant protection.

Since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020, the Bowdoin community has been remarkable in working with care through the many challenges presented by COVID-19. As we begin a new academic year, I know that you will continue to care for one another.

Enjoy the remaining days of summer, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

All the best,

Clayton