We’ve officially reached the winter break, and wanted to share an update after a challenging week as it relates to COVID, both on the Oberlin campus and more broadly across Ohio and the country.
The number of COVID cases in Ohio has been growing for some time, and last week, the state alert for spread was elevated to its highest level. Initially, we did not experience a corresponding increase on campus, but early this past week, the situation changed and COVID numbers grew quickly. In the past seven days, 158 positive cases – mostly among students – were reported. These are the highest numbers we have seen since the outset of the pandemic. Fortunately, these cases remain mostly mild or asymptomatic.
We handed out 537 rapid test kits yesterday afternoon and evening, and about 100 this morning. Now that most students have left for the winter break, we are focused on caring for those with COVID on campus and keeping other students safe. This is a moment to reset and recommit to safe practices such as being diligent about wearing masks. We know that many of you are traveling at a time when the Omicron variant is spreading. Please take the measures available to you to help keep yourself healthy.
Meanwhile, we have COVID updates to share, along with some reminders of plans announced during the past week.
- Please arrange to get a booster shot as soon as you are eligible. Most people may get boosted six months after being fully vaccinated. The College is working with Lorain County Public Health to hold another booster clinic on campus in mid-January
- All students, faculty and staff will be required to obtain a COVID booster shot by the start of the spring semester on February 19.
- Those who aren’t eligible by that date should obtain a booster as soon as possible following the 19th.
- Those who have vaccination exemptions on file for medical or other reasons do not need to request a new exemption
- Students should upload vaccine cards to the Student Health Portal.
- Faculty and staff should upload vaccine cards through the Human Resources Portal.
Expanded testing protocols
- All students, faculty, and staff will be required to test for COVID within 24 hours of their return to campus, whenever they happen to return. Walk-in testing will be available at Hales Gym beginning January 2.
- Weekly PCR testing is required for those unvaccinated students, faculty, staff, and vendors who have a vaccination exemption.
- Beginning in mid-January, optional walk-in PCR testing will be available seven days a week for asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff.
- Walk-in testing for symptomatic students, faculty, and staff (rapid and PCR tests) will also be available.
Completing the fall semester and Winter Term
- Students may choose to be remote during this time. All fall classes will have remote options available to finish the semester in January, and many classes will be remote only.
- It is likely that campus will be de-densified to varying degrees until the start of spring semester.
- Winter Term activities that involve close proximity or higher-than-normal aerosol production are being evaluated for modification and risk reduction. In some cases, for example, N95 or KN95 masks may be required for these activities.
- Dining on campus will be grab-and-go. Students will be asked to eat meals in their residences and at least six-feet of distance from one another
- Masks must be worn inside buildings when with others and outdoors when with a group.
- Intercollegiate athletics will move forward with increased testing and safety protocols. Athletes will receive further specific communications regarding this.
Travel restrictions for Winter Term
- Oberlin has canceled all college-sponsored group travel by air and extended group travel by car or bus (four or more hours) during Winter Term.
- Individual projects where students are traveling domestically, or to international locations where they are a citizen, national, or permanent resident, may continue, but students are strongly advised to have contingency plans and support in place.
Semester-long study away
- Students who are planning to study away this spring will still be permitted to participate if they wish, should their program be moving forward
- Students and their families should carefully consider their own risk tolerance, and ensure that their program has appropriate contingency plans in place. Students are also advised to be sure their travel insurance covers COVID-related matters.
We look forward to welcoming you back to campus, ready for a safe and productive winter and spring.
Carmen Twillie Ambar