Update on the Fall Semester
Letters to the Community
August 9, 2021
Dear students, staff and faculty:
Staff and faculty members have been hard at work this summer in preparation for a fall semester with all students back on campus. I look forward to welcoming everyone back and to enjoying our cherished traditions, especially Mountain Day—I have already ordered T-shirts!
Over the past several weeks, the Cabinet and I have been closely monitoring the course of the coronavirus delta variant and its implications for our community. As you likely know, this variant is highly transmissible and now accounts for more than 80 percent of current COVID cases. Because we have required vaccinations for everyone (except those with medical and religious exemptions), our community has a very high vaccination rate; this is the best protection against the spread of the virus.
But there is more we must do to protect our community in light of evolving public health guidance, so we are updating our safety protocols.
Masking Starting on Wednesday, August 11, masking will be required of everyone, at all times, in all indoor campus spaces. The only exceptions will be students’ rooms, and faculty and staff members’ individual offices. Students must wear masks in dining halls except while eating. Masks will remain optional outside. Many peer colleges and universities across the country are taking a similar approach to masking.
Testing Asymptomatic testing continues to be required of everyone on campus. As of August 22, the testing frequency will be weekly for those fully vaccinated and twice weekly for those who have an approved exemption from vaccination.
Indoor events Only those in Smith’s testing program will be allowed to attend indoor events, and we may have to limit the size of audiences for some events.
I am optimistic that these measures will ensure a strong start as we return to campus for the fall semester. If pandemic conditions improve and the number of cases on campus remains low—as was the case last spring—we may be able to relax some of our protocols.
I want to acknowledge that news of rising infection rates is discouraging. Still, let us remember that Smith is a special community. For the past 17 months, we have met every challenge posed by the pandemic. As a result, we have become better at learning to live and work in a different world. And let us also remember that conditions have dramatically improved since last fall, thanks to the vaccine; I am heartened by this, as I hope you are.
The Cabinet and I will continue to monitor conditions and to respond to the pandemic based on public health guidance. You will continue to hear updates each week via email from the COVID-19 Incident Response Team (CIRT) and from the COVID-19 Coordination Group in Smith’s biweekly all-community meetings. Finally, you may always send your questions to email@example.com.
Throughout the pandemic, my spirits have been lifted with a smile, a wave and a kind word from members of this community. Let us continue to support and care for one another. I look forward to seeing you on our beautiful campus soon.