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One Emerson: Will We Have to Close Campus Again This Spring?

Thirty-six students have entered quarantine or isolation in just the past three days.

Will we have to close campus like we did last spring?

That’s just about the most frequently asked question I get.

But to be honest, I should be asking YOU that question.

Fall 2020 ran very smoothly, in large part because community members like you took precautionary measures seriously and changed behaviors to observe safety guidelines and recommendations. The College was successful last Fall primarily because you made it so.

The number of students testing positive Is higher than in the Fall.

And unlike the Fall, we are seeing evidence of community spread — people testing positive due mostly to social interactions with other Emerson students — and an increase in the number of close contacts per person who tests positive.

On average, each person testing positive has had SIX OR MORE close contacts. That’s too high.

Remember: You are a close contact if you have face-to-face contact with someone who has the virus within 6 feet, with or without a face covering, for 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24-hour period. Like:

  • When you eat a meal with others and are not 6 feet apart.
  • When you watch a movie with a small group and are not wearing a mask.
  • When you play a pick-up game of basketball and do not wear a mask (and it’s risky even with a mask).
  • When you work in close proximity for an afternoon on a group project.

Basically, you become a close contact when you interact with others in the way we’re driven to do as humans. That’s the really difficult and horrible part.

Because if you’re a close contact of someone who tests positive, you’re not only at risk: You’ll have to quarantine whether or not you test positive. And if you do test positive, then all of your close contacts will have to quarantine and test to see if they are positive…etc.

The hardest part about COVID isn’t wearing a mask.

It’s maintaining physical distance, and defining and staying inside the small group of people who make up your “bubble.”

This is serious, and there’s really no margin for error.

Higher positivity rates around the U.S., the influx of more contagious virus strains, and the cold weather heighten the need to observe safety guidelines. This is a reality, not a what-if.

I know most of you take COVID safety seriously and want to do the right thing.

But the steady stream of COVID violation reports would suggest that some of you are having a hard time complying. So far this Spring, 73 percent of all reports coming into Community Standards involve COVID violations.

  • If your lack of compliance is because you don’t want to follow the rules, then being in Flex classes this Spring is not the right choice for you. Let’s cut to the chase and make it easy for you to leave campus now, before you spoil it for everyone else.
  • If it’s because of a lack of awareness, please take this opportunity to educate yourself. Read the guides, assess your behavior, and commit to changing your behavior.
  • If it’s because of frustration/isolation/loneliness, please reach out for support. See below for some options.

Whatever the reason, we need everyone on board with the guidelines. NOW.

You’ve heard this before. But this is not the time to be complacent.

Each person’s actions can positively — or negatively — impact the community’s health and safety.

  • Limit your number of close contacts: Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance and avoid gatherings.
  • Don’t travel, especially overnight, unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • If traveling overnight, register in advance.
  • Complete the daily symptom checker honestly.
  • Do not interact with others if you are experiencing any symptoms.
  • Take your COVID test twice weekly, or as scheduled.
  • Wear your mask AT ALL TIMES, except when in your room with your assigned roommate(s).
  • If possible, wear a three-ply face covering.
  • Frequently wash and sanitize your hands.

Let’s be real — this is hard. Reach out for support if you need it.

We’re all feeling COVID fatigue. We’re just so damn tired of regulations and the lack of normalcy that it becomes easy to let our guard down or forget to stay vigilant.

Maintaining this level of vigilance and physical distancing is exhausting. It can take a toll on your mental health. If you need support, we encourage you to reach out to:

…or use the Concern Center to find resources for your situation.

We are here to help.

You can do this. We can do this.

It takes effort and focus. We’ve shown that we can do it. We just have to dig in a little deeper and rededicate ourselves right now.

It’s OK to be frustrated. It’s OK to be sad at the loss of things you miss.

It’s not OK to let those feelings drive you to behaviors that could lead to community spread.

Questions? Please email us at any time ( or attend one of the bi-weekly COVID Questoin & Answer open forums (every other Wednesday night at 6:00 pm Details on EmConnect).

Thank you for doing your part and for reading this.

Take care,
Jim Hoppe
Vice President and Dean for Campus Life

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