Planning and Guidance for the Winter Break
| by Mark Peluso, Karen Miller, and Jennifer Kazmierczak
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As the winter break approaches, we are writing with some important information about staying safe, helpful resources, and making preparations for those who will return to work on campus in January.
In this message, we will cover the following topics:
- Local and regional COVID-19 developments
- Vermont guidelines on travel
- Quarantining outside Vermont
- Guidance on safe, direct travel (if essential)
- Vermont guidelines on multi-household gatherings
- College guidance on use of CTO
- How and where to get a COVID-19 test
- Return of students to campus for research and the spring semester
- Vermont Department of Health FAQ
Local and regional COVID-19 develoments
First and foremost, is it important to stay informed about local and state COVID-19 conditions. You can do this by following media coverage, regularly checking the Vermont Department of Health website, and by signing up for COVID-19 updates through the VT–Alert service. Please keep in mind that changes in Vermont guidelines around travel, multi-household gatherings, and other issues could impact your plans as well as your ability to safely return to work at the end of the winter break. As a reminder, employees who can perform their work remotely should continue to do so. On-campus employees are expected to follow Vermont guidelines regardless of their state of residence.
Vermont guidelines on travel
The state of Vermont continues to advise against nonessential travel for the holidays, even within Vermont. Those who do travel to and from Vermont must quarantine for 14 days, or seven days followed by a negative COVID-19 test, provided you have no symptoms and continue to self-monitor. Individuals living in New York or other states should also follow their home state guidance, but know that return-to-work guidance at Middlebury will be based on the rules for Vermont. While Vermont makes exceptions for essential travel, if you travel out of Vermont for leisure, or travel by plane, train, bus or other means of public transportation for a non-essential purpose, you must quarantine in Vermont when you return. This includes day trips.
Quarantining outside Vermont
If you plan to be away for a longer period of time, you may complete quarantine in another state–if you return to Vermont in a personal vehicle (including a rental vehicle) and complete either a 14-day quarantine or a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative PCR test in the state you are visiting–provided you have no symptoms. If you are not traveling back to Vermont immediately, you must continue to quarantine after receiving your test result. You also must continue to monitor yourself for symptoms for the full 14 days from the start of your quarantine.
Guidance on safe, direct travel
If you must travel during the break, remember to follow these guidelines:
- Limit your stops to those for food, fuel, rest, and other essential purposes.
- Any time you stop, follow the prevention steps:
- Stay at least six feet away from people you do not live with.
- Wear a face covering.
- Avoid crowded indoor spaces.
- Wash your hands often.
- Stay home and do not travel if you are sick.
- Keep in mind that any travel to Vermont by public transportation (plane, train, or bus), requires quarantine in Vermont upon your return.
Vermont guidelines on multi-household gatherings
Governor Phil Scott’s Executive Order prohibits gatherings with people from other households. This includes both inside and outside social gatherings, in public and private spaces. This means that employees can only gather with the people that they live with and cannot gather with people from other households. Individuals who live alone may gather with no more than one other household. Visitors to Vermont can only socialize with the people they are traveling with. They cannot gather with Vermonters or with people from another traveling group. Regardless of where you live, gathering with other households will require a quarantine prior to returning to work in Vermont. Learn more at the Vermont Department of Health FAQ website.
College guidance on use of CTO
As noted in the winter break announcement, the College winter break will take place from December 24 through January 10, and holiday premium pay will be available to non-exempt benefits-eligible employees who are required to work during that time. Guidance regarding pay for other reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.
All staff (regardless of benefit eligibility) are eligible for paid leave in the following circumstances if unable to perform their work remotely:
- The individual tests positive for COVID-19 and is instructed to isolate.
- The individual is asked to quarantine by the Vermont Department of Health or Middlebury as a result of contact tracing.
- The individual or a member of the individual’s household or an intimate partner is sick with COVID-19-related symptoms. (In this case, paid leave will be given for up to seven calendar days.)
All other leaves or absences will follow our normal processes for Combined Time Off (CTO), Sick Leave Reserve (SLR), Vermont Earned Sick Time (VEST), Family and Medical Leaves of Absence (FMLA), Short-Term Disability (STD), personal leaves of absence, and worker’s compensation. For example, if you travel for leisure and must quarantine when you are scheduled to work before or after the winter break, you would have to use CTO.
How and where to get a COVID-19 test
Employees with symptoms of COVID-19 should talk with their health care provider about getting tested. Individuals without a health care provider may call 2-1-1 to connect to care or contact the nearest federally qualified health center or one of Vermont’s free and referral clinics. Vermont has expanded testing availability for those without symptoms in Middlebury and other communities. Visit the Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 testing webpage for more information.
Targeted Dynamic Testing on campus is expected to resume the week of January 17. Arrangements are still being made, but testing likely will be available for employees who will be working on campus during that week.
Return of students to campus for research and the spring semester
During the winter break, 23 students remain on campus, and we continue to appreciate your efforts to keep these students and our community safe. On January 16, an additional 34 students will return to campus to begin winter term research projects. Spring term students will return on February 21 and 22.
Those who will be working on campus directly with students should keep these dates in mind, as well as travel, gathering, quarantine, and testing requirements as you plan your time over the next month. Avoiding travel and gatherings is the best way to avoid quarantine, the need for a COVID-19 test, potential exposure, and to keep our community safe.
Vermont Department of Health FAQ
While we hope this information was helpful, it is possible that the Vermont rules will change between now and January 11. One of the best sources of information is the Vermont Department of Health FAQ website. We will also post updates on the College Announcements webpage and send email for critical updates as needed.
Your health is our health
Our experiences in the fall gave us a better understanding of how to best protect ourselves, each other, and our community. Travel and gatherings with multiple households are now considered higher-risk activities, and we encourage you to follow Vermont requirements to protect your own health and our collective health over the well-deserved winter break. This requires flexibility and in some cases means foregoing cherished holiday traditions. This year, we encourage you to take the opportunity to try something different, create a new tradition, and hopefully form a lasting memory.
Wishing you a safe winter break,
Chief Health Officer and College Physician
Vice President for Human Resources
Environmental Health and Safety Officer