Most residential students have now moved in, and it’s great to see more signs of activity on and around campus, as well as in the city of Boston as off-campus students return to their apartments. As we embark on the Spring 2021 semester, I wanted to reiterate a few important reminders. The first few are primarily directed to those who enrolled in the Flex courses on the Boston campus. Here are a few things that are new this spring:
3 New Things This Semester (Take Note)
- Stay in Your Room/Apartment Directive: Upon return to campus, students are required to take a baseline COVID test and then quarantine until receiving a negative test result (that part is not new). Students then need to observe a “stay in your room directive” until the end of the day Friday, January 29. During this period, students are asked to remain in their rooms except to pick up meals, attend medical/testing appointments, collect mail, or attend work shifts (more below on the reasons for this). Students living off campus are also asked to stay in their apartments during this period.
- COVID Testing Two Times Per Week — Sign Up for a Specific Cohort: All students who are reporting to campus are required to take COVID tests two times per week — and must sign up for a specific testing cohort. You are expected to make and keep your testing appointments.
- Overnight Travel: Students who are traveling overnight at any point during the term are expected to complete the travel registration form and follow specific testing/quarantine protocols on their return to campus.
Stay in Room Until January 29: WHY?
The Stay in Your Room Directive is extremely important, and it applies to students living both on and off campus. I know, though, that this guideline runs counter to our very disposition as human beings. The temptation to reconnect, visit, and do all the things that good friends do is part of our nature. Please, please, please resist those temptations. Why? I swear we’re not trying to be fun-killers:
- People are returning to Boston from all over the world. The number of COVID cases, especially in the U.S., has spiked dramatically since Flex classes ceased in November. We’re fortunate to be seeing the beginning of a downturn in Massachusetts, but we want to do everything possible to minimize the risk of spread. In addition to high case numbers, new variants of the virus are showing up that are more easily transmissible. By following the Stay in Your Room Directive through January 29, everyone has the opportunity to be tested multiple times before more typical interactions begin, giving us greater opportunity to identify positive cases and institute isolation and quarantine protocols which will, hopefully, minimize the potential spread of the virus.
- Staying in your room helps you minimize the number of close contacts you have. You probably recall that the definition of a close contact is someone with whom you have had face-to-face contact, with our without a mask, for a cumulative period of 15 minutes over the course of a day. That could be anyone you eat a meal with, have a cup of coffee with, watch TV or a movie with, etc. Every time someone tests positive for the virus, each person identified as a close contact must be placed in quarantine. We are seeing an average of five to six close contacts for each person who tests positive, and on average, half of those close contacts eventually test positive themselves. Do the math.
We learned last fall that our community takes the virus seriously, and by working together and applying self-discipline, we can keep transmission rates low and have a successful semester. We need to stay especially mindful this winter, as several new factors (colder temperatures that keep us indoors, more highly transmissible virus strains, and plain old COVID fatigue) add more variables for us to manage. We’ve shown, though, that we can do this. We’ve done it before, and I, for one, am confident we can do it again.
All the best to each of you as we continue with this Spring semester. Oh, and don’t forget that there are a variety of resources available to you. The Emerson Everywhere site is a great place to remind yourself of what they are.
Vice President and Dean of Campus Life