Dear Middlebury Community,
We are writing with some updates about the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, the fall semester arrival period, and the return to in-person classes, events, and activities on the Vermont campus. We also published today a new Fall Guide with information about the latest health and safety protocols and other guidance for navigating life on campus.
In this email, we will address:
- Student Arrivals and State of the Pandemic
- Vaccination Requirement and Compliance
- Arrival Period Precautions
- COVID-19 Testing
- Isolation and Quarantine Procedures
- Visitor Policy
- Conduct Policy
- Dining Changes
- Fall Guide and Staying Informed
Student Arrivals and State of the Pandemic
On August 23, we welcomed the first group of students back on campus for leadership training and athletics, and we will continue with the arrival of international students on September 2, other first-year students on September 6, and finally with upperclass students on September 11 and 12. As previously announced, we will have the largest student enrollment in recent memory this fall—about 2,865 students, or roughly 300 more than usual—as we continue to respond to the pandemic and accommodate students returning to Middlebury after a leave of absence. With a continued focus on returning to the most normal operations possible, we are closely monitoring conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing concerns about the Delta variant and its transmission between both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. We have entered a stage of the pandemic where we have a much better understanding of how we can continue to come together and create meaningful connections while at the same time remain vigilant, and ready to shift our strategies when needed. We continue to be guided by science and the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Vermont Department of Health advice, knowing that we must be prepared for both the expected and the unexpected. We will change course as needed to keep our community healthy and safe.
Vaccination Requirement and Compliance
We are pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of our students enrolled for the fall will be fully vaccinated upon arrival, dramatically reducing the chance of severe illness. We still are in a period of transition, however, and expect that on the final arrival day, September 12, just over 97 percent of our students will be fully vaccinated. This is because a small number of students—about 2 percent—will not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine before coming to campus; they will begin the vaccination process upon their arrival. At the conclusion of the arrival period, our student population will be 99 percent vaccinated, with a small number of medical and religious exemptions comprising about 1 percent.
We also have received an enthusiastic response from faculty and staff. As of today, approximately 97 percent of faculty and staff confirmed to be working on the Vermont campus this fall were in compliance with our vaccination policy. Of those individuals, about 1.7 percent had approved medical or religious exemptions. The remaining 3 percent reflects the segment of the employee population that is in flux, such as new hires and individuals on leaves of absence. All employees working on campus must be in compliance with the policy.
Arrival Period Precautions
While vaccination remains our best defense against the most severe effects of COVID-19, we now know that vaccines do not always prevent transmission of the virus, specifically the Delta variant. Prevalence of the virus continues to rise, even in Vermont, where more than 85 percent of those eligible have received at least one dose, and more than 76 percent are fully vaccinated—the highest percentage in the nation. We already have active cases of COVID-19 on our campus among fully vaccinated individuals. With the arrival of students from all over the world at colleges and universities throughout the United States, we expect to identify more positive cases during the student arrival period and throughout the semester. If current trends and projections hold true, we likely will see a continued increase of COVID-19 cases for the next several weeks, followed by a decline.
To minimize spread of the virus at this critical time and prevent any further disruption to our academic and student life programs, we must take some additional precautions at least through the arrival period to protect our community, including prearrival testing for all students, requirements for face coverings indoors, and moving events outdoors or to a virtual format when possible. Details about the latest guidance are available on the Campus Status webpage.
We do not expect to reinstate distancing or capacity limits at this time, but will make determinations about protocols based on the latest information available. We are not placing restrictions on in-person work as we did in the last academic year, but some departments may continue to work remotely or in a hybrid format during the arrival period and beyond to minimize any potential exposures.
In addition to prearrival testing, a small number of students who were not able to be fully vaccinated before arrival, or who have approved exemptions, will be tested for COVID-19 three times during their first week on campus. All students arriving from an international point of origin, regardless of vaccination status, will also participate in arrival testing.
Based on current CDC and Vermont guidance, we will conduct limited target dynamic testing for asymptomatic students (sometimes referred to as surveillance testing) as required for travel and competitions, and other activities. Other testing during the semester may be required based on local and regional health conditions. As has been our practice, we will continue to offer ongoing testing for symptomatic students as needed through Health Services.
In addition to in-person tests at Health Services, we plan to designate locations where students can pick up testing kits to administer during Zoom appointments with a nurse. We ask that students contact Health Services to make arrangements for tests rather than go to a local pharmacy or other location. This will minimize additional exposures and allow us to have a better understanding of prevalence on campus. Faculty and staff should consult their healthcare provider.
Isolation and Quarantine Procedures
One way we are working to minimize potential spread of the virus is to require a seven-day room quarantine upon arrival for unvaccinated students. Students who arrive without proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test also are required to quarantine in their rooms until they receive a negative test result. Students in quarantine may pick up meals at the dining halls and must wear well-fitted face coverings when not in their rooms.
We continue to follow CDC guidance about quarantine requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19 or were in close contact with someone with COVID-19. At this time, fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 are not required to quarantine unless they experience symptoms, but must be tested three to five days after exposure.
We continue to work with the Vermont Department of Health to conduct any necessary contact tracing. Anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 will be informed and given instructions on how to protect themselves and others.
The College campus remains closed to the general public. Visitors and guests of faculty and staff are allowed on campus with departmental permission only for approved events and programs. Approved guests include fully vaccinated parents and families during student move-in days.
Other guests of students are not allowed at this time.
Guests and visitors, including approved vendors, must be fully vaccinated or have a valid medical or religious exemption. They must also wear face coverings indoors and are encouraged to wear face coverings outdoors when in groups where distance cannot be maintained and/or where sustained or prolonged close contact with others is unavoidable.
We have paused our COVID-19 student conduct policy as we do not anticipate we will need a process specifically for violations of our health and safety guidelines. Instead, any potential violations, such as multiple missed mandatory testing appointments, will be referred to the Office of Community Standards, which will respond within our standard conduct policies. We expect that our entire community will make the best decisions for themselves and each other as we continue to navigate the pandemic together.
During the arrival period, we are asking event organizers to consider converting events to virtual formats or outdoor locations when possible. More information about event planning during the arrival period is available on the Event Management website.
With a larger than usual student population and the continuing challenge of a nationwide labor shortage, we are making some adjustments to dining services, including opening all three dining halls—Proctor, Ross, and Atwater—and encouraging students to have lunch at the Grille using their swipe cards or declining balance. Please note that these dining options will be open to students only. We regret that we will not be able to serve faculty, staff, or visitors at this time. We will also temporarily limit late evening hours at the Grille. MiddExpress will be open later in the evening and will offer some Grille favorites. More information has been shared in a separate message from Dining Services.
Fall Guide and Staying Informed
Similar to the spring, the latest guidance will be available on the Campus Status webpage and on our Fall Guide and previous announcements websites. We also have revised our COVID-19 reporting dashboard. We ask that you read through and check these resources regularly to stay informed. Should you have additional questions, please contact COVIDinfo@middlebury.edu.
Thank you for all you are doing to prepare for another successful in-person semester. We are very much looking forward to being together with you on campus.
Vice President for Student Affairs
Chief Health Officer and College Physician