Saint Mary’s to require masking indoors through Feb. 11 as part of updated guidelines
Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, January 5, 2022
In a Wednesday email from interim vice president for student affairs Gloria Roldan Jenkins and COVID-19 response team chair Mona Bowe, Saint Mary’s updated its COVID protocols for the spring semester using guidance from the St. Joseph County Health Department.
The updates include a campus-wide indoors mask requirement until Jan. 30 and a masking requirement in classrooms until Feb. 11.
“This extended period of time will allow us to assess the current situation of the pandemic after the holidays and after the return of our own community, and make a determination for the continued use of masks after February 11,” the email said.
Starting Jan. 2 through Jan. 30, everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask indoors, including elevators and stairwells in residence halls due to past surges in COVID cases after breaks, according to the email.
From Jan. 31 through Feb. 11, all students regardless of vaccination status and unvaccinated faculty will be required to wear masks in classrooms. Vaccinated faculty can continue to unmask at their discretion if they decide it is best for the learning experience and if they can physically distance themselves from others in the classroom.
In the email, the College recommended students use KN95 or surgical masks during the month of January because they “have been found to be more effective than cloth masks in slowing the spread of the virus.” Nonetheless, the email said students can also choose to wear a disposable mask under a double-layered cloth mask for additional protection.
Those who are unvaccinated, not yet fully vaccinated or who have not yet received a booster are required to wear masks indoors for the duration of the semester. Visitors are also asked to continue wearing masks indoors.
The College strongly recommends students take an at-home COVID test the morning before moving back to campus or attending their first class, whichever comes first. Students only need to report positive results by email to the Health and Counseling Center at [email protected] if their test is positive, according to the email. In case of a positive test result, students are advised not return to campus.
In addition, students who have received an exemption from the COVID vaccine or who are not fully vaccinated will be required to receive a test at the Health and Counseling Center Jan. 10 between 7 a.m. and noon before their first class at Saint Mary’s. Students must make an appointment online ahead of time.
The email said the Health and Counseling Center will use their discretion to decide whether students need antigen or PCR test. Antigen tests will cost $5 and PCR tests will cost $40, which will be charged to the student’s account.
Students may be asked to remain in the Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex until their test results are available.
Screening testing for students who have received a vaccine exemption or who are not fully vaccinated will begin the week of Jan. 17.
Unvaccinated students and employees are required to be tested weekly, per the email. Screening testing will cost $5 weekly and will be charged to the student’s account.
Fully vaccinated students and employees will not be included in screening testing, unless guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changes, the email said.
Athletes will follow NCAA and MIAA testing protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated athletes.
Students who are not eligible to receive a booster before Jan. 21 must contact the Health and Counseling Center via email to determine their deadline and continue to wear masks indoors until they receive their booster.
Employees also have to provide proof of receiving the COVID vaccine booster, and should upload the necessary documentation through an online form. Employees who are not eligible to receive a booster before the required deadline must contact Human Resources at [email protected] to determine their deadline.
Eating and drinking
Through the month of January, College events or meetings may not offer food, per the email. Community members may only be unmasked if they are actively drinking.
The email also asked students to continue wearing masks in the dining hall and other food outlets until they are sitting down to eat. Plexiglass, however, will not be reinstalled in the Noble Family Dining Hall.
Quarantine and isolation
The Mother Angela Center in Regina Hall South will be reopened to residential students who have to quarantine or isolate.
However, students whose primary residence is within 300 miles of campus will need to make arrangements to return home to complete their quarantine or isolation period, according to the email.
The Health and Counseling Center will follow current CDC recommendations for the duration requirements for quarantine and isolation, the email said.
Residence hall guests
Tri-campus community members will continue to have access to residence hall common areas and rooms, following visitation guidelines, the email stated. Masking requirements will apply in both common areas and rooms.
Guests outside the tri-campus community will only be allowed in residence halls during move-in and must be masked, regardless of vaccination status, according to the email.
The email concluded by asking for patience from the College as the pandemic continues.
“We are all aware that the new variants are aggressive and contagious, and experts expect to see a surge in January due to the high volume of holiday travel,” the email said. “We ask for your patience and cooperation as we continue to navigate the expected and unexpected.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said the campus-wide indoors masking requirement would last until Feb. 11. The indoors masking requirement will be in effect until Jan. 30, after which students will only be required to wear a mask in classrooms until at least Feb. 11. The Observer regrets this error.