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Health & Safety

Phased Drop-off Plan

A phased drop-off and move-in plan will be used in order to minimize campus density at any one time. Specific drop-off/move-in dates will be available in late July. While we understand that this is an important milestone in every family and student’s educational journey, we will sadly not be able to allow parents and other visitors to go inside students’ houses to assist with move-in. Instead, students must be dropped off outside their houses and the parent/visitor must then immediately exit campus. This is the only practical way to remain in compliance with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order #205, mandating a 14-day quarantine for visitors from other countries or on New York State’s travel advisory list (available here), and to keep both our campus and our larger community safe. In light of this, we would suggest each parent consider your own best travel plans to maximize the safety and health for all, and minimize any personal inconvenience that might occur. If you are from another country or from one of the states on the NYS travel advisory and will remain in New York, you must self-quarantine while in the state. State financial penalties for not complying are substantial. Please understand that we know how disappointing this situation is and wish it could be otherwise. The students’ health and safety are our top priority.

We know many of our students will be coming from international locations and states included in Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order. These students will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days either at home or upon their arrival to campus. International students and students from designated states with travel advisory are required by New York State to complete a travel quarantine form. Please visit this link to see what states are included and to access the online version of the form. At New York State airports, a quarantine task force will greet flights to assure that each person completes the form. When you complete the form, please write that you will quarantine at Vassar College. We are still in discussion with the state about what your self-quarantine on campus will look like, and we are working to ensure students from these states are well supported on campus and able to start classes on time. Like all students, international students and students from designated states with travel advisory are also required to have a negative COVID-19 within 7 days before arrival and you will be tested again on campus twice in the first two weeks. If you cannot access a COVID-19 test, please contact health@vassar.edu.

Students moving in are expected to abide by the following guidelines without exception:

  • Everyone is required to wear a face mask or nose and mouth covering for the duration of the move-in window. This includes within all corridors and lobbies of the residential houses as well as while outside.
  • Our custodial partners in Facilities Operations (845) 437-7270 will be treating the interior and exterior of our residential buildings with an electrostatic disinfectant regularly.
  • The time slots will be for four hours for all students. Each House and apartment area will have a maximum capacity per time slot to keep population density low and safe for all.

Given the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students are advised to pack lightly in order to facilitate an easier move-out process. In addition to regular housing and bathroom supplies, students are advised to also bring the following items with them:

  • Thermometer
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Reusable facemasks
  • Disposable back-up facemasks (to keep in your book bag)
  • Cleaning supplies

All residents will be required to sign a VassarTogether Commitment, which includes an acknowledgement of the risks of living in the residential communities due to the contagious nature of COVID-19 and defines our shared norms and expectations for campus life.

Testing, Tracing, Self-Quarantine and Isolation Policies

The College will conduct COVID-19 testing for the Fall 2020 Semester. We plan to implement Community Care Testing of all students and some employees based on a risk-based model of occupational exposure to students and other employees. The screening process will be conducted by authorized laboratory personnel. The College will also provide diagnostic COVID-19 testing at Health Services for students. On-site Community Care COVID-19 sampling and testing of students and employees will start in early August 2020 and continue through the end of the Fall 2020 Semester.

Student Testing

  • All new and returning students are required to provide a negative FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 molecular assay for detection of SARS-COV-2 RNA by nasopharyngeal swab to the Vassar College Health Service prior to arrival. The test must be taken as close to arrival on campus as possible, in accordance with the student’s local COVID-19 testing availability, no longer than seven days before each student’s scheduled campus arrival. Students who are unable to access a test should contact the Health Service, Bridget Romani, (845) 437-5801 or health@vassar.edu.
  • Following their COVID-19 PCR test, the College asks that students self-quarantine as best as possible prior to their arrival on campus.
  • Students with a positive COVID-19 PCR test should not travel and are required to remain at home. These students can take classes online until they are symptom free and can provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
  • Each cohort of students will be tested again upon arrival on campus.
  • Students will self-quarantine in assigned rooms, with minimal socialization, until results are received.
  • Students with a positive COVID-19 PCR test may not travel to campus and are required to remain at home and await guidance from Health Services on next steps. These students may take classes online until they have been cleared by Health Services to travel to campus.
  • All students will be tested again using a PCR molecular test upon arrival on campus.
  • Students will self-quarantine in assigned rooms, with minimal socialization, until results are received. We expect test results in less than 48 hours.
  • Students with a positive test will be directed by Health Services staff to self-isolate in designated locations. The College will coordinate daily check-ins and provide food delivery to students in isolation.
  • All students will be tested twice by PCR molecular test within the first 14 days of their arrival on campus.
  • The College will continue to undertake Community Care Testing through the end of November 2020.

In addition to regular diagnostic, community care testing, we will provide on-campus point-of-care testing for students experiencing symptoms.

Employee Testing

Given the increased employee and student density that will occur on campus in the fall, all employees who will be working on campus are encouraged to have a COVID-19 test prior to students’ return to campus in mid-August. However, only employees in certain categories will be required to undergo testing twice within 14 days of students’ return to campus. These categories include any employee:

  • with a student-facing role;
  • who lives on campus, as well as their family members;
  • whose role makes it impossible to stay at least six feet from a colleague or a student (supervisors will determine who falls into this category).

Testing of employees in the above categories will be provided on campus by the College in August (details to be announced). The College will also offer testing to any employee who requests it. Any employee who tests positive should stay home from work and contact their health care provider and HR for guidance on when return to work will be permissible. During the course of the Fall Semester, employees who are in regular contact with students will be tested on campus periodically, likely each month. The College plans to provide details on employee testing to all employees in late July.

Contact Tracing

The College will assess the symptoms of the student population regularly and employees daily to identify emerging health concerns. Technology will be available to help individuals recall their previous movements to assist with contact tracing and will be used on a voluntary basis.

Vassar College recognizes the importance of having a robust case investigation and contact tracing plan to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on our campus and provide support to our Vassar Community. Contact tracing prevents further transmission of disease by confidentially identifying people who have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing will work in tandem with efforts to increase testing, practice effective strategies to reduce transmission, and implement isolation and self-quarantine protocols.

Two contact tracers are needed to carry out this plan for our employees and students (30 contact tracers per 100,000). The Nursing Coordinator in the Vassar College Health Service is the team lead contact tracing supervisor. Utilization and training of the on-call nurses in the Health Service is an optimal plan as they have the knowledge needed and are already employed by Vassar College. The College will also have employees in the Office of Residential Life and the Office of Health Promotion and Education trained in contact tracing. In combination with the nurses in the Health Service, the College will surpass the recommended number of contact tracers needed for our campus populations (1.2 contact tracers).

The Nursing Coordinator will ensure that all contact tracers have completed the 5-hour Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course. Contact tracers will be knowledgeable of best practices, empathetic, professional, organized, and handle confidential information with discretion and professionalism. Contact tracers will regularly check in with the team supervisor and report high-risk situations that require immediate notification and coordination with the local health department.

Self-Quarantine and Isolation

The College will provide separate residential space for the isolation of any student who is suspected or determined to be COVID-19 positive. In addition, the College will provide self-quarantine spaces for close contacts of known or suspected COVID-19 positive students. Any employee who is suspected or determined to be COVID-19 positive or a close contact of a known or suspected COVID-19 positive individual is required to immediately leave work and follow the directives of the local/state health department.

The NYS Department of Health has issued guidance regarding isolation and self-quarantine. Students who consistently fail to follow these guidelines may be required to depart campus for the remainder of the semester. Current guidance defines the following terms:

  • Mandatory isolation: Person has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not displaying symptoms of COVID-19
  • Self-quarantine: Person has been in close contact (within 6 ft, for over 15 minutes) with someone who is positive, whether or not displaying symptoms of COVID-19
  • Precautionary self-quarantine: Person is known to have proximate exposure to a positive person but has not had direct contact with a positive person and is not displaying symptoms  
The NYS Department of Health has also defined shelter requirements for isolation and self-quarantine spaces:
  • separate bathroom for each individual (see below)
  • access to sink with soap and water and paper towels
  • cleaning supplies
  • delivery of food
  • supply of face masks
  • garbage pickup outside room
  • symptom monitoring
  • nearby medical facilities
  • secured from unauthorized access
  • appropriate signage

The College has reviewed its proposed isolation and self-quarantine spaces with Dutchess County Behavioral and Community Health, which has approved the use of spaces on campus without private bathrooms, specifically the apartments, Terrace Apartments, Brewers Lane Townhouses, and South Commons units, as well as the Residential Quad annex spaces. Each of these spaces has a ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms of between 3:1 and 6:1. The spaces are acceptable with the acknowledgement that if a person in mandatory or precautionary self-quarantine shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, any students in the apartment or annex cohort would then extend their quarantine period for at least another 14 days after the individual has symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test.

Self-quarantine rooms are set aside for students who arrive without a negative COVID-19 test or who have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case. As of July 20, students in these rooms will share bathrooms with others in self-quarantine; in small groups, may be able to get grab-and-go food (or else it will be delivered) and may be able to walk outside. But generally, they are to remain in their rooms until their test comes back negative.

Additionally, isolation rooms have been set aside for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but whose symptoms are mild. Any student with serious symptoms will be asked to call their family and would be taken to the hospital. While in isolation rooms, students must stay inside until they are recovered and will be checked by our health professionals and the local health department daily.

Self-quarantine and isolation rooms available throughout the semester for any students who have been exposed to another person with COVID-19 or who has COVID-19 themselves. Self-quarantine and isolation rooms have a microwave and refrigerator. We recommend that you pack a separate bag consisting of travel size toiletries, hand sanitizer, medications, pajamas, 2 sets of clothes, and charging cords for your devices in the event that you need to move to an isolation or quarantine room.

All of the student’s physical, wellness, nutritional, and health care needs will be supported while in self-quarantine or isolation. Vassar Health Services will check in on students daily and provide guidance. Vassar Health Services has medications available for a fee, and the local Rite Aid on 238 Hooker Avenue ((845) 486-6166) will deliver medications to the campus. The student will electronically submit a food order form daily to the Dining Services.

The College will also follow the following general principles and guidelines for all student isolation and self-quarantine cases:

Privacy and Confidentiality: Health Services will maintain a high level of confidentiality and limit who has access to protected health information. Student medical diagnoses and treatment plans will only be shared with any medical staff taking care of a student. Support staff will only be informed that a student requires isolation or self-quarantine and will follow the protocol.

Triage, Identification and Relocation of Potential Isolation/Self-Quarantine cases: Detailed procedures have been developed for triage, identification, relocation, and notification of appropriate College departments, and contact tracing of potential cases.

Discontinuation of Isolation/Self-Quarantine: Vassar College Health Services providers will decide if and when the student can discontinue isolation or self-quarantine consistent with guidance from the NYS Department of Health and/or Dutchess County Behavioral and Community Health. Vassar College Health Services and Residential Life will notify all appropriate College departments.

Enhanced Cleaning Protocols 

Facilities Operations will undertake a rigorous cleaning schedule that pays special attention to cleaning high-touch and high-traffic areas on a regular cleaning schedule. The following cleaning protocols will also be implemented:

  • All high-touch surfaces in public rooms, hallways, common spaces, and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected at the start of each day. There will be a second round of disinfecting of these spaces at mid-afternoon each day.
  • All toilets will have chlorinated tablets to disinfect with each flush. All toilet stalls will also have signage reminding users to flush after each use.
  • Every bathroom will have occupancy number signage to optimize social distancing. In most cases, this will be based on 50% fixture capacity. Bathroom exhaust fans will be functional to optimize airflow.
  • Student rooms and common-use bathrooms will also be disinfected upon notification to Facilities Operations by the Health Service or the Office of Residential Life after a student has been relocated to isolation or self-quarantine.
  • Students are responsible for cleaning their rooms on a regular basis during the semester. Exceptions will be made in cases of illness or exposure whereby a student’s room will be cleaned by Facilities Operations. The College will supply disinfecting supplies for all student residents through the Office of Residential Life.

As noted above, while Facilities Operations will take on the bulk of cleaning responsibilities, employees and students are encouraged to see cleaning as a collective enterprise that helps enrich our notions of community care and responsibility. Employees and students are especially encouraged to clean their workspaces and living spaces on a regular basis.

If there is an area of concern that you would like to see addressed or if you have questions about cleaning you are encouraged to put in a work ticket through Facilities Operations as soon as possible by visiting facilitiesoperations.vassar.edu or calling (845) 437-7270 (8:30am5:00pm; MF)

Reducing Density and Return-to-Work Protocols

Vassar will implement return-to-work protocols on July 12 for those employeesprimarily Safety & Security, Facilities, Administrators, and Faculty—who are required or permitted to work on campus. Over the course of the summer, the number of employees working on campus will slowly increase. Following New York State guidelines, we expect to have fewer than 50% of employees on campus at any one time for the foreseeable future.

By implementing these return-to-work protocols in July, College employees will be prepared to support continuing compliance with these protocols when students return for the Fall Semester. These protocols include three key components—Telework, Daily Health Screening, and a Campus Mask Policy—designed to maximize community health and safety, in accordance with New York State guidelines.

Telework

In order to maintain low density and social distancing within campus buildings, many employees will continue to have the opportunity to telework during the fall semester. Therefore, some student services will be available primarily (or exclusively) online this fall, and appointments will take place via videoconference (Zoom). Offices that are physically open on campus will generally not be available for drop-in appointments; in-person meetings must be scheduled in advance and follow the protocols limiting in-person meetings described in this document.

Daily Health Screening

Employees working on campus will complete a daily self-care assessment before the start of their work day, reporting any COVID-19 symptoms, close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, and whether they have had a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days. New York State requires the College to review these assessments daily. Any employee who experiences COVID-19 symptoms must stay home from work, and will be contacted by human resources or health services to provide support as needed.

Once students return, they will follow a similar protocol, completing a regular health self-assessment. Any student experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must not attend classes and should contact Health Services for support and advice on proper care and whether testing and/or self-quarantine are warranted.

Campus Mask Policy

Everyone on campus—students, employees, and visitors—is required to wear a mask or face covering, except: when in private/unshared rooms or offices; when stationary outdoors and able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others; or if running or biking for exercise, and able to maintain a 6-foot social distance from others. Masks are required while in transit (walking from place to place indoors or outdoors). The College will provide masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed for employees to safely conduct their job activities on campus.

Early Warning Signs

We will be monitoring the following data each week and posting data on the Vassar COVID-19 website: # tests, # cases, # of contacts in quarantine, # in isolation. If we have a more than five cases at any one time in which we cannot detect the original source, we will be on high alert. If we fill more than 80% of our isolation rooms, we will consider closing down. If more than 5% of the on-campus student population has COVID-19, we will likely close down (this is similar to the isolation beds being full).