Dear Oberlin Community,
We’ve all kept each other safe these past two years of the pandemic by working together as a community, following the data, and listening to local, state, and national healthcare professionals. We’ve depended upon one another. And I have confidence that this commitment to each other will continue to serve us well.
Now, as we head into a break, complete the remainder of our semester, have Winter Term, and then begin the spring semester, the spread of the Omicron variant is asking us to demonstrate that commitment more clearly once again. Currently we are not experiencing the same spread of COVID that some campuses across the country are experiencing, but as we all know from our past efforts, we benefit when we are proactive. Based upon the latest public health information, a proactive approach will help us maintain a safe campus, continue the work of the college, and preserve as much of the Oberlin experience as is possible.
Remote Options for Classes in January
So once again, we have the opportunity to take advantage of our academic calendar. The data about the Omicron variant is still developing, but there are things we can do now. In particular, we will be expanding our methods of delivering our academic experience while the entire campus gets booster shots. Once we leave for our short break, we will have remote options for all classes for the remainder of January through Winter Term until the start of the spring semester.
As a result of this change, some classes that planned to finish the semester in person may move fully remote. If this is the case, your professor will let you know. We are currently looking at options for Winter Term offerings that don’t lend themselves to remote experiences. But the point here is that you can return to campus in early January and during Winter Term, and the remote option will allow you to remain off campus should you choose to, and still be able to participate in the academic experience. We are making this change to give ourselves the maximum amount of time for our entire campus to get booster shots before the spring term.
Classes this week will continue as normal for these final three days. For those currently still on campus, we will continue our indoor masking policy because all the data tells us that this is the most effective means by which we can deter the spread of COVID. And we haven’t had a single case of transmission from the classroom setting.
Booster Shots Required
Because we are learning that the most effective way to prevent serious disease and hospitalization from Omicron is to have a booster, we are requiring all students, faculty, and staff to obtain booster shots by the start of the spring semester on February 18th. Ideally each of us will have received the shot at the beginning of February to ensure that we have time to develop the maximum immunity by the start of the semester. But here’s the thing. Let’s get our booster shots now. There really isn’t a reason to delay. Booster shots will be mandated unless there’s a medical or otherwise approved exemption.
We’re also making some changes to further reduce risk on our campus as we become fully boosted. So starting today, dining services will be grab-and-go, and that will continue through Winter Term. And we’re going to remind you that while you’re eating and drinking anywhere on campus, maintain at least six feet of distance. And I want to reinforce that our indoor masking policy has not changed. I’ve heard reports that we’ve relaxed ourselves a bit with our masking policies. And frankly, those are the times when we’ve had multiple cases of COVID on our campus because of non-adherence to this policy. So listen guys, let’s redouble our efforts and recapture that diligence around masking. Please wear your masks while indoors, and please wear it over your mouth and nose.
Testing Upon Return to Campus
We’re also introducing some changes to our testing plan. As students and faculty and staff come back from break, whether in January or at the start of the semester, or to do a Winter Term, or for the spring, we will require you to be tested. Everyone will have to be tested. And just like in the past, we want to find a baseline so we can get a sense of what’s happening on our campus. We’re also adding capacity for voluntary walk-in COVID testing this winter and spring. So those of you who have concerns, you’ll have a more convenient testing opportunity available to you.
Now we know you have travel plans for the break and we wanted to get this message to you as quickly as possible so you’re able to adjust your plans as you see fit. But that said, we’re still working out some of the details. So please pay attention to ObieSafe updates in the coming weeks ahead. And we’ll provide some details for you finalized in an updated FAQ. Remember, our goal is to remain together in a safe and strong Oberlin community. As we learn more, we’ll provide updates. And as always, we know you will remain flexible to policy changes should the data and guidance from public health professionals indicate that we should pivot. And for additional information, please see a Q & A on the ObieSafe webpage that we’ll update as needed.
I am confident that working together, we can continue to be safe and have the Oberlin experience that we value. Stay safe, mask up, travel safely, get your booster shot, and have a wonderful holiday break.
Carmen Twillie Ambar