Spring Return to Campus
| by Mark Peluso, Derek Doucet, and Jennifer Kazmierczak
Dear Middlebury Community,
We are writing to provide important updates and instructions as we prepare for the spring semester on campus. While most of these updates apply to students, we are sharing them with all of you, as it is important that our entire community understands our protocols and procedures. This email includes essential information about:
- The state of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Prearrival quarantine and why it is essential
- How students can prepare for quarantine
- Campus guide: spring edition
- SafeColleges course
State of the Pandemic
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have come a long way in modifying our daily behaviors to prevent transmission of the virus. We have learned much from our experiences of last spring and fall, and we have adjusted and adapted just about everything we do at Middlebury. At the same time, the prevalence of COVID-19 has increased worldwide, including in Vermont and Addison County as well as on our own campus. A new landscape has emerged, presenting us with different challenges than we have faced before. Among the conditions that will affect our spring semester are the following:
- New, more contagious strains of COVID-19 have emerged.
- Vaccines are being disseminated, but it will take months before they are widely available.
- Pandemic fatigue has set in. Fewer people are complying with rules about gatherings, wearing face coverings, and physical distancing, at a time when even more vigilance and persistence is needed.
- Colder weather will require us to spend more time indoors, where the likelihood of transmission is greater. More outdoor tents, including larger heated spaces, will be set up this semester, but indoor safety measures will apply.
- Cold and flu season will coincide with the spring, so more people may be symptomatic and require testing.
- Other Vermont colleges bringing students back to campus in January have encountered more COVID-19 cases than they did in the fall.
Why the 14-Day Prearrival Quarantine is Essential
Even with these new conditions, we know we can prevent transmission and spread of the virus by continuing our multilayered approach and core health and safety practices of the fall semester and winter term. This includes wearing face coverings, physical distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, limiting gathering sizes, and avoiding unnecessary travel. All of this starts with the 14-day prearrival quarantine for students returning to campus, the keystone of our plan.
Prearrival quarantine was a critical measure in reducing the occurrence of COVID-19 on campus in the fall. It is an essential step for the spring because:
- It meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for people who were exposed to COVID-19 without knowing it.
- It reduces the possibility of exposure to COVID-19, as well as to colds and flu, which have similar symptoms and can complicate diagnosis and treatment.
- It exceeds the 10-day isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms.
- A higher prevalence of COVID-19 on campus could mean tighter restrictions, along with more students required to isolate or quarantine, which is a challenging experience for many.
- While testing is helpful, its purpose is detection rather than prevention; however, one negative test is not as effective as a prearrival quarantine. A test is just one point in time and is not an assurance that an individual has not and will not contract the virus.
- Note that all students must quarantine regardless of prior COVID-19 infection or whether they have received the vaccine.
Planning Ahead for Prearrival Quarantine
All students returning to Middlebury for in-person learning or remote learning on campus must begin preparations 14 days ahead of their planned arrival regardless of where they are traveling from and the mode of transportation to campus. Those returning to campus on February 21 and 22 should begin their prearrival quarantine on February 7 and 8, respectively.
A successful quarantine requires planning and dedication. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Prearrival quarantine must be completed at home or in a single location, followed by travel as directly to campus as possible.
- During this time, students must limit contact with others, wear face coverings, and physically distance from those they live with who are going to work, school, or completing errands outside of the house.
- All family members who leave the home during your quarantine should wear face coverings to avoid spreading the virus to you. If they will not or cannot wear a face covering, you must avoid being within six feet of them for more than 15 cumulative minutes in a 24-hour period.
- Avoid contact with others. If possible:
- Sleep in a private room.
- Use a private bathroom.
- Eat in a separate room or space, away from others (consider joining virtually).
- Have meals brought to your room, or eat before or after others privately.
- Avoid gatherings and any intimate contact.
- Plan goodbyes and other gatherings before the start of your quarantine. You should not have any gatherings once quarantine has started.
- Plan ahead to enjoy traditions such as the Super Bowl (Day 1 of quarantine for students returning on February 21) without gathering with others.
- Do all errands, get all prescriptions, and complete all appointments before the start of quarantine.
- Routine medical appointments should be scheduled for either before the prearrival quarantine date or after the semester ends. If that is not possible, students must travel directly to and from the appointment and follow the core health and safety practices during the appointment.
- Manage quarantine stress and care for your health by incorporating indoor movement, maintaining relationships, and keeping your mind active, and if it can be done completely alone and away from others, outdoor exercise such as walking, running, hiking, or Nordic skiing. Check our quarantine activity calendar for other ideas. (See also the COVID Care webpage).
- Always have a face covering with you.
- Contact Health Services if you have health or wellness needs during quarantine.
- Do not come to campus if:
- You are sick, are living with someone who is sick, or have been exposed to sick individuals.
- You cannot complete a 14-day prearrival quarantine.
- Students who have personal circumstances that prevent them from completing a 14-day home quarantine may request an exemption by emailing DOS@middlebury.edu. Do not assume your request will be granted. Each request will be carefully considered, and exemptions will be granted only for truly compelling circumstances.
Campus Guide: Spring Edition
We will share more information soon about the spring semester when we publish our Spring Guide website, revised conduct policies, and health pledges for students and employees. New this spring: Rather than progressing through phases, we will instead create a Campus Status webpage on how to stay safe, with what is and is not permitted on campus each week, based on conditions in Addison County, Vermont, and the nation. We also will offer weekly webinar office hours with the three of us: Dean of Students Derek Doucet, Chief Health Officer and College Physician Mark Peluso, and Environmental Health and Safety Officer Jen Kazmierczak. We hope these resources will make it simpler to navigate life on campus.
SafeColleges Training and Student Health Pledge
Before arriving on campus or beginning remote learning, students must complete online training through the SafeColleges platform. The training will include acknowledgement of the spring Student Health Pledge. Access information will be emailed to all students on February 5, and the course must be completed by February 17.
Thank you for your attention to these updates. We look forward to welcoming you back to campus in a few short weeks. As always, if you have any questions, please email COVIDinfo@middlebury.edu
Chief Health Officer and College Physician
Environmental Health and Safety Officer
Dean of Students