Health & Safety
Phased Drop-off Plan
A phased return plan will be used in order to minimize campus density at any one time. Specific drop-off/move-in dates are available here.
As in the prior semester, we will unfortunately still 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 #205.3, mandating a 10-day quarantine for any traveler to New York State from a noncontiguous state, US territory or CDC level 2 and higher country, per NYS travel advisory guidanc (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 a state falling under guidelines indicated 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, non-contiguous states, and US territories. These students will be required to self-quarantine for 10 days either at home or upon their arrival to campus and are required by New York State to complete a Traveler Health form. Please visit this link for details 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 these impacted students are well supported on campus and able to start classes on time. All students are required to take a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test within three days before arrival (the result not required). Students will be tested again upon arrival with a rapid antigen test (results in 15 mins) and a PCR test (results in 2-3 days). Students with a negative rapid antigen test will be allowed to move back into their spring housing assignment. Students will receive another PCR test on day four. This means a student will have four resulted tests within a 10-day period, providing us with essential metrics for the campus quarantine model.
Students who are moving back 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.
- Arrival dates have been assigned to all student to account for population density and safety.
Given the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students returning to campus 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:
- Hand sanitizer
- Reusable facemasks
- Disposable back-up facemasks (to keep in your book bag)
- Cleaning supplies
Before receiving your keys, all students are required to sign the Spring 2021 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 Spring 2021 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 on February 1, 2021 and continue through the end of the Spring Semester.
- Students traveling domestically to campus will be required to have taken a COVID-19 test (antigen or PCR) in the three days before arrival. You need not have the results to come to campus.
- On the day of arrival, students will be given both a rapid antigen test (15-minute results) and the more sensitive, gold-standard PCR test (generally returned in two to three days).
- Once the rapid test is returned negative, you may move into your room. If it comes back positive, you will be asked to stay in an isolation room until we confirm the result with the PCR test.
- All students will be tested again on campus on the fourth day of arrival; this test will be a PCR test (generally returned in two-three days).
- We expect students to have had two on-campus PCR tests by February 17.
- If you are not able to obtain a COVID-19 test within three days of arrival, New York State will require you to be quarantined on campus or in a nearby hotel for 10 days, and, as of now, you are not allowed to “test out” of that quarantine.
- During the semester, all students will be tested on campus at least every two weeks. The test periodicity may change based on campus and community positivity rates.
- Students who have had the COVID-19 vaccine will still need to be tested as above.
- Students who have had a positive COVID-19 test in the last 90 days should let Health Services know in order to develop a testing plan for the semester.
- The College will continue to undertake Community Care Testing through the end of the Spring 2021 Semester.
In addition to regular diagnostic, community care testing, we will provide on-campus point-of-care testing for students experiencing symptoms.
All employees who will be working on campus are encouraged to have a COVID-19 test prior to students’ return to campus in early February. However, only employees in certain categories will be required to undergo testing.
COVID-19 testing is available on campus for all employees who live on campus, or who work in dining, safety and security, residential life, health services, sports medicine, and facilities operations. All other employees are also encouraged to be tested regularly. Rite Aid at 709 Main Street in Poughkeepsie offers a fast, easy, and free option. Sign up for an appointment online at their website. Many pharmacies and other locations locally offer fast, easy, and free options.
Students and employees living on campus: Please watch your email from Westchester Medical Center and from Health Services. You will be asked to schedule regular appointments for COVID-19 testing. These will be approximately every two weeks, and in some cases more regularly. Failure to continue testing as required can result in being asked to leave the campus and study remotely.
A communication to students with reminders for scheduling repeat testing appointments will be forthcoming.
As a reminder, whenever someone tests positive for COVID-19, Health Services and the local health department conduct contact tracing. Contact tracers reach out to everyone named by the person who tested positive as potentially close contacts. You must tell the truth to the contact tracers about whether you were within six feet of the person who tested positive, for how long, and whether you were both wearing masks. All contact information is kept confidential. Please remember that health information, including names of people with COVID-19 and their contacts, is confidential.
If you are deemed to be a “close contact” (e. g., having spent 10-15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who tests positive, shared bodily fluids, shared food or drink), you will need to move to self-quarantine and take all classes online or work remotely for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
If you do not hear from a contact tracer, and you are worried that you were in contact with someone who tested positive, please reach out to Bridget Romani in Health Services at email@example.com.
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 five-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.
- If a student tests positive, they will be isolated in one of our buildings devoted to students with COVID-19. Students will be supported with daily contact from health services. We will also have on-site EMS personnel who will check on students in isolation during evening hours. Isolation will last for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and county public health department do not recognize additional viral testing of students once they have a positive PCR test for at least 90 days after the positive test.
- Upon a positive test, all contacts of the student will be immediately traced. People deemed to be close contacts will be tested and self-quarantined for 10 days, and asked to monitor symptoms closely for 14 days. During self-quarantine, ordered food will be delivered and students may not have physical contact or leave their self-quarantine assigned rooms. Students in self-quarantine will receive a daily email or text, a weekly phone call, and support as needed from health services.
- Students in self-quarantine can also reserve a time with Safety & Security for a walk at the Farm & Ecological Preserve.
- Depending on the need, we may use hotel rooms for self-quarantine, as was done occasionally during the Fall Semester.
- If you are deemed a close contact, but you have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and have recovered, you will not need to self-quarantine; however, based on current guidelines, you still need to self-quarantine even if you have had the COVID-19 vaccine.
- After-hours medical and mental health support is available through the Nurse Triage Line (accessed by calling Health Service) as well as through the services of an on-campus Emergency Medical Technician (accessed by calling the CRC).
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 and continue their studies remotely 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. Students who are symptomatic but have not tested positive will also be self-quarantined.
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 10 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. 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 will be 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 at 238 Hooker Avenue (845) 486-6166) will deliver medications to the campus. The student will electronically submit a food order form daily to 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 disinfected 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 (8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; M–F)
Reducing Density and Return-to-Work Protocols
With the reduction of density being an important element of our success in Fall 2020, we expect to have fewer than 50% of employees on campus at any one time for the foreseeable future.
Employees will continue to comply with protocols that 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.
In order to maintain low density and social distancing within campus buildings, many employees will continue to have the opportunity to telework during the Spring Semester. Therefore, some student services will be available primarily (or exclusively) online 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 in-person 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 exercising in a group of 6 or fewer people, 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.
* The CDC and local/state health officials recommend using a mask/face covering with two or three layers of material to better prevent unfiltered air from passing through. You can also use a cloth face covering over a disposable mask.
Other New Health and Safety Protocols
- Physical distancing markers will be posted in heavily used spaces on campus.
- Small spaces (e.g., elevators) should be occupied by only one person at a time. Campus spaces will have posted maximum-capacity limits that must be adhered to at all times. Buildings will be accessible with card access only.
- The HVAC systems in all buildings have been reviewed. In addition to increasing the levels of filtration via the installation of MERV 13 filters, which remove about 90 percent of all particles in the air including viruses such as COVID-19, our air-handling units have been programmed to allow the mixing of more outside air to help refresh the air inside buildings. Opening windows and doors for cross-ventilation is recommended whenever possible.
Academic Buildings HVAC Summary
Buildings have been fitted with MERV 13 filters (all units provide outside air):
- Kenyon Hall
- Thompson Library
- Ingram Library
- New England
- Powerhouse Theater
- Sanders Physics
- Sanders Classroom
- Swift Hall
- Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film
- Weinberg Field House
Summary of the air handling systems in other classroom buildings:
Rockefeller Hall: The majority of the building is heated with steam radiators, so there is no air circulation. MERV13 filters have been installed for the 200 and 300 classrooms as well as the 4th floor where there are air handlers.
Skinner Hall: The Recital Hall and the Listening Room units have been fitted with MERV 13 filters, both units provide outside air. The rest of the building is heated with steam radiators, so there is no air circulation.
Blodgett Hall: The auditorium, lower level and second floor Labs 23A through 35, Animal Quarters, Room 106, Rooms 209 through 215 have all been fitted with MERV 13 filters. Additionally, they all bring in outside air. The rest of the building is heated with steam radiators so there is no air circulation.
Taylor Hall: The units that heat Auditorium T102, Lecture Hall T203, and second floor classrooms, T205, T206, offices T214, 215 & 216 have been fitted with MERV 13 filters. Additionally, all units provide outside air.
Ely Hall: Second-floor classrooms 200 through 204 have been fitted with MERV 13 filters and all units provide outside air.
Chicago Hall: The new laboratory has been fitted with MERV 13 filters and the units provide outside air. The rest of building is heated with hydronic system so there is no air circulation.
The Bridge for Laboratory Sciences and Olmsted Hall: Both buildings are fitted with filtration systems equivalent to MERV13 and supply air entirely from outside (no recirculation of interior air).
Barn: MERV 13 filters are in the space serviced by the air handlers.
Old Laundry Building: The second-floor spaces have been fitted with MERV13 filters. In the rest of the building, the systems cannot support the enhanced filters.
Administrative Buildings HVAC Summary
Buildings have been fitted with MERV 13 filters (all units provide outside air):
- Computer Center
- Facilities Operations
- Gordon Commons
- Kautz House
- College Store at the Juliet Building
Summary of the air handling systems in other administrative buildings:
Baldwin: The entire building is heated with steam radiators, so there is no air circulation.
College Center: The HVAC systems that cover the first and second floor of the north side of College Center, the second floor on the south side of College Center, the MPR, and the Villard room will all have MERV 13 filtration installed. Also, all these units bring in outside air.
Alumnae House: The HVAC systems in the basement, first floor, and the third floor have all been fitted with MERV 13 filters and the systems provide outside air in those spaces. The rooms on the second floor have their own systems which do not share air with other spaces but also can’t accommodate MERV 13 filters and don’t bring in outside air.
Main Building: The offices for Residential Life, Campus Activities, Campus Response, and the offices on the south end of the second floor have air handling units which will be fitted with MERV 13 filters. They also bring in outside air. The remainder of the building is heated with steam radiators so there is no air circulation.
New Hackensack: Does not have the ability to be fitted with MERV 13 filters. The whole building is heated with baseboard heat which does not have air circulation. Additionally, the art department spaces, have air handling units which provide outside air to those spaces but cannot be fit with MERV 13 filters.
Early Warning Signs
We are collecting and monitoring data each week and reporting it on the Vassar COVID-19 Dashboard. This data includes: # tests, # cases, # of contacts in quarantine, and # in isolation, among other data points. If we have 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).