Summer 2021 FAQ: Changes to COVID-19 Protocols

On May 17, 2021, Oberlin announced future changes to the COVID-19 policies. With vaccinations proven effective, and Oberlin College vaccination rates high, the college is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health, and the Lorain County Public Health Department.

When do policy changes go into effect?

The change in the mask policy was effective on May 17, 2021. The other policy changes go into effect beginning June 2. Current COVID-19 policies remain in effect until that time.

Why move from policies and requirements to guidance and recommendation?

The Oberlin community has done a remarkable job adhering to the layered health care strategy this academic year. Thanks to our collective efforts, including de-densification and social distancing, masking, testing, a daily symptom survey, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine protocols, Oberlin maintained a positivity rate of 0.23% for the 2020-21 academic year.

Because vaccines are now readily available, the CDC has updated its recommendations for vaccinated individuals. The state of Ohio plans to lift health protocols statewide on June 2. Oberlin continues to follow national and state public health guidelines, so we are moving away from prior mandates regarding masks, testing, and other measures, barring evidence that would warrant a return to a more restrictive position.

The rates of vaccination on the Oberlin campus are very high. The campus has achieved over an 80% vaccination rate for summer term, with the percent growing daily as vaccine cards are uploaded. The vaccination rate will be recalculated for fall term but we anticipate it will remain over 80%.

Do I need to provide my vaccine card to Oberlin?

Please upload a vaccine card as every card is significant in making the campus feel safe about resuming normal activities. A card should be uploaded to Student Health (students) or the Human Resource portal (faculty and staff), immediately after the final dose.

Will my vaccination status be shared with other people?

The college will not disclose this information nor are you required to discuss your status when asked by a colleague or supervisor.

Why are vaccinated individuals permitted to be unmasked, not physically distanced, and not participate in testing?

These recommendations were made by the Center for Disease Control after multiple studies verified the efficacy of the three COVID-19 vaccines that have received Emergency Use Authorization. Vaccinated individuals are at low risk of being infected or transmitting the virus so are safe to resume normal activities unless in crowded places.

What risks are there for unvaccinated individuals?

The college recommends that people who are not vaccinated continue to wear masks indoors and practice physical distancing when possible.

Unvaccinated people face the risks typically assumed with respect to illnesses for which effective and approved vaccinations exist. As the state of Ohio fully opens on June 2, everyday activities bring a risk for exposure. The college therefore recommends that unvaccinated individuals take appropriate personal precautions in their daily life to protect themselves. A campus vaccination rate over 80% minimizes the risk of contracting COVID-19 on campus.

How can I minimize the risk of catching or spreading an infection?

It is critical that we apply common sense when considering COVID-19. Remember to wash your hands regularly. When in crowds such as those occurring on public transit, the CDC still recommends everyone wear a mask. Monitor your symptoms daily. If you feel sick, stay home and contact Student Health (students) or your healthcare provider (employees) to determine if testing is warranted. Wear a mask to minimize exposing others to infection and maintain distance. These simple public health measures should be used to prevent the spread of any viral or bacterial illness.

What if there is a resurgence of COVID infections in the nation, state or region?

Oberlin continues to monitor vaccination rates, the need for boosters and rates of infection. If there is a resurgence, the college will take the necessary steps to keep the campus safe. If COVID-19 reappears on campus in large numbers, ObieSafe protocols could be reinstated.

What are the new mask guidelines?

Effective as of May 17, Oberlin no longer requires anyone who is fully vaccinated to wear a mask while indoors or outdoors. Because the spread of COVID-19 will primarily occur in the presence of unvaccinated individuals, unvaccinated people should consider wearing masks outdoors when near others. Unvaccinated individuals should wear a mask indoors and maintain distance from others.

Do I need to participate in monthly testing?

Required monthly testing will end as of June 1, 2021. Optional PCR testing will be available by appointment on a limited basis for unvaccinated students, faculty, or staff for the month of June. Oberlin will no longer provide PCR tests for asymptomatic individuals after July 1, 2021.

Summer 2021 billing statements and financial aid will be adjusted related to testing. We do not anticipate a need for a testing fee on the tuition bill for the 2021-22 academic year.

Will Oberlin offer testing for symptomatic individuals?

Symptomatic COVID-19 testing will be available only for students in Student Health. Student Health will determine the need for a confirmatory PCR test.

Symptomatic employees should consult their health care provider.

Will I still be required to fill out the Daily Symptom Survey?

Effective June 2, completion of a daily symptom survey will no longer be required to enter campus facilities.

Are there still capacity limits?

Limitations on the number of people permitted in any given space will be lifted indoors and outdoors.

What about indoor dining? Will to-go options still be available?

Indoor residential dining will be open on June 2.  Grab-and-go options will be available on a long-term basis.

Will housing return to full capacity?

Regular housing occupancy rates will be used to make assignments for the fall. Students enrolled in summer term will have single rooms.

Are classrooms and offices back to full capacity?

Offices will move to full occupancy with social distancing and masking no longer required. Everyone is asked to follow masking and distance guidelines per their vaccination status.

Classroom capacity will allow for three feet of distance for the Summer 2021 semester. All courses will be “remote-accessible” the first week of class to allow for completion of PCR testing. During the add/drop period (5/24/2021 to 6/3/2021), students who are vaccinated or receive a negative PCR test may visit classes in person so long as seating is available.

It is recommended that unvaccinated individuals wear a mask and social distance when possible.

When are employees expected to return to work on campus?

All employees will fully return to work on campus by June 15, 2021.

Are campus buildings open to the public?

Campus buildings will be fully open, with specific hours for each building. It is recommended that those who are unvaccinated wear a mask and social distance.

Are travel or off-campus engagement permitted after June 2?

All Oberlin travel and off-campus engagement restrictions will be lifted on June 2. The college will resume approved financial support for work-related travel.

Those who are not vaccinated should follow CDC travel guidelines, obtaining a PCR test and quarantining independently if recommended. Student Health will no longer monitor quarantine for unvaccinated students who travel internationally or domestically.

Different organizations or travel destinations may have restrictions that you will need to comply with, so be sure to check prior to making arrangements.

Are there any safety recommendations that should be followed during travel?

Anyone traveling on planes, buses, trains or other transportation should consider wearing a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. When possible, leave windows open on buses or in vans for improved air flow.

Are social gatherings permitted?

Beginning June 2, social gatherings are permitted. Each individual should assess the personal risk involved in gathering with others. Ideally, individuals will self-disclose vaccination status. Some people may choose to wear a mask and maintain distance.

Is the gym open to all members?

Recreational and wellness facilities (indoor and outdoor) will be open to all faculty, staff, students and those external patrons with a membership. YeoFit classes may be conducted at maximum capacity. Facilities may be used for external rentals, along with prospective student-athlete camps and clinics. All meeting rooms, office spaces, competition venues, weight room, fitness center and the climbing wall may return to full capacity. Locker rooms will be open to patrons. Please follow all typical and posted protocols for cleaning/disinfecting equipment and exercise areas.

If you have not been vaccinated, you are encouraged to wear a mask while exercising indoors. (Masks will be available at the front desk for use.)

What changes will occur for athletics, practices, and competition?

Athletics will return to standard operating procedures for practices, competition, game day operations with spectators permitted, travel, and recruitment. Athletes/Recreation should follow all typical and posted protocols for cleaning and disinfecting equipment and exercise areas. Varsity team rooms will be available. Those student athletes on campus this summer may compete and travel with external leagues.

Are guests and visitors expected to be vaccinated? What policies should they be aware of?

All vaccinated visitors and guests are welcome to campus, both indoors and outdoors, per normal regulations and guidelines. It is highly recommended that all guests are fully vaccinated prior to visiting Oberlin.

Unvaccinated guests are permitted on campus but should wear a mask indoors and maintain distance from others. Please refrain from coming to campus if they are ill.

How can the campus community adjust to the policy changes?

After living with many COVID-19 restrictions for over a year, it will take time for everyone to adjust to a more normal way of life. Please be sensitive to your colleagues on campus. Even as restrictions are lifted, some people may understandably feel more comfortable continuing to wear a mask or following other transmission mitigation strategies. Respect their choice as well as their reasons for doing so.