Spring 2021 Campus Experience
Building upon the success of Fall 2020, plans for the Spring 2021 semester have been developed to be in line with the latest guidance from the Center for Disease Prevention & Control (CDC), and state and county public health recommendations and requirements. Despite the many challenges of COVID-19, our plans are focused on providing the best learning experience possible and our approach seeks to support the physical and mental health of our students, faculty, and non-faculty employees through the semester.
As in many parts of the country, Dutchess County is experiencing increases in active COVID-19 cases, and it will be more important than ever for us to continue to minimize traffic in and out of the campus to reduce unnecessary exposures. Norms of masking and social distance will continue to be integral to the plan, and we will continue to test regularly.
Vassar is actively advocating for higher education to be included in the early phases of the vaccine rollout in the state, and will keep the community updated as soon as we receive confirmation of when our campus—faculty, non-faculty employees, or students—will be allowed to be vaccinated.
We look forward to having students back on campus and are confident we can be successful in limiting COVID-19 on campus and while also creating a supportive learning environment and community for everyone.
During the first days of arrival; per the New York State regulations, until students have received two negative on-campus PCR tests, they may not gather inside or outside. Before all students have received two negative on-campus PCR tests they may be in public spaces that are open with their roommate. Below are protocols, many of which go into effect starting February 25, that we will follow for Spring 2021. As a reminder, these protocols may change as country, state, or federal policies shift. Plan updates will be made throughout VassarTogether in the affected categories and they will also be found in the Announcements section of the site.
Date of arrival
- The date of your planned arrival depends on your 999 number.
- If you need to make a change in your assigned date of arrival, please reach out to Dean Inoa at LInoa@Vassar.edu
- Students are expected to arrive between February 1 and February 10. Students needing to arrive after February 10 must request special permission, which will only be granted for health considerations or international travel difficulties.
- We recognize that flights and various travel restrictions may make returning more complicated for international students and we will be as flexible as possible on dates of arrival. Please reach out to Dean Inoa (Inoa@Vassar.edu) to request special arrangements.
- Per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), students arriving from international settings must show a negative COVID-19 test result within three days before they fly to the U.S.
- The latest international students can arrive on campus is March 7.
Pre-arrival and ongoing testing
- All students must get a COVID-19 test (antigen or PCR) within three days prior to arriving on campus. Please make every effort to have the result as well (using a rapid test as needed). Right now, New York State just requires the test to have been administered; however, this could change. Information about how to upload pre-arrival test information will be forthcoming.
- On the day of arrival, students will be given both a rapid antigen test (15-minute results) and the more sensitive PCR test (generally returned in two or 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 after their arrival; this test will be a PCR test (generally returned in two or three days).
- We expect students will have had two on-campus PCR tests and the results returned by February 17.
- If you are not able to obtain a COVID-19 test within three days prior to arrival, New York State requires that you self-quarantine, and you are, as of now, not allowed to “test out” of this self-quarantine. For this 10-day period, we will assign you a self-quarantine room either on campus or in a nearby hotel.
- During the semester, all students will be tested on campus at least every two weeks. 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.
- Students will be allowed to pod beginning February 25.
- In a pod, students do not have to maintain six feet of distance from each other or wear masks; however, if one person in the pod tests positive for COVID-19, all other students in the pod are likely to be deemed close contacts and will need to self-quarantine for 10 days, regardless of their test results.
- Pods can include up to six students, and they may include students in different dormitories or on-campus living arrangements; however, IDs will work only in one’s own dormitory. Students may visit pod-mates in other dormitories and apartments, but must be invited and swiped-in by their pod-mate. For specific issues or podding problems, please be in touch with your house advisor or Dean Inoa (Inoa@vassar.edu).
- Students in THs/TAs/SoCos can participate in pods that include people in dormitories, as long as the pod does not exceed six students and all students in a room or apartment are within the same pod.
- Roommates and apartment-mates must be in the same pod.
- If anyone from outside the pod is present, then everyone must follow regular protocols of six feet social distancing and masking.
Additional policy when expanded podding begins:
Students are permitted to extend low transmission risk outdoor exercise/recreation such as running, biking, cross-country skiing, etc. to off-campus trails/roads/sidewalks/walking paths that are directly adjacent to campus under the following conditions:
- Students must stay within five miles of campus.
- Students must be able to get to/from the activity without the use of a vehicle (and may not use a personal vehicle to do so).
- Students may not enter any off-campus buildings/indoor locations.
- Students should maintain a minimum of six feet of social distancing from community members at all times.
Indoor gathering and spaces
- Indoor spaces such as the Library, the Old Bookstore, the Affinity Centers, and the Villard Room will be open immediately; however, before February 25, they may only be with their roommates in those spaces.
- Gatherings for any reason inside should be limited to 10 people, or the COVID-19 density limit displayed in the room.
- Gatherings that include more than one’s pod require six-feet social distancing, masking, and abiding by room density limits by all gathered. If your pod is alone in a common space with the door closed, everyone in the pod may be unmasked.
- Many spaces will be open to reserve (e.g., Rocky, Blodgett, Chicago Hall, and Sanders Classroom), with social distancing and masking requirements.
- The Athletic and Fitness Center (AFC) and some other fitness facilities will be open for recreational use with COVID-19 protocols.
- Many buildings have now been equipped with MERV 13 HVAC systems, to improve ventilation.
- Students may gather in groups of up to 10 people outdoors, masked and keeping six feet of social distance.
- If approved by the relevant department or Campus Activities, students may gather outside in a group of up to 25 people, with masks and socially distanced.
- Outdoor gatherings may be up to 10 people, masked and with six feet of social distance (unless everyone at the gathering is in the same pod).
- Outdoor exercise/recreation must be in groups of six or fewer; everyone must mask and keep six feet of social distance (unless everyone is in the same pod).
The second and third floors of Gordon Commons will be open for indoor dining beginning Thursday, February 25. Students must dine either alone or with members of your pod at the table, and occupancy will be set for 25% capacity at all times. To schedule a time to eat in Gordon Commons, use your Vassar app.
Students may not eat indoors in any public room with other students, other than within Gordon Commons where health and safety measures are in place. Indoor dining is a high-risk activity, and we want to minimize such risks.
Self-quarantine and isolation
- 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. On-site EMS personnel 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 Prevention & Disease Control (CDC) and county public health department do not recommend 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 except to exercise as per below. 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 students are deemed a close contact but have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and have recovered, they will not need to self-quarantine; however, based on current guidelines, students who are close contacts still need to self-quarantine even if they have had the COVID-19 vaccine.
- After-hours medical and mental health support is available through the Nurse Triage Line (accessed by calling Health Services) as well as through the services of an on-campus Emergency Medical Technician (accessed by calling the CRC).
Unauthorized parties/gatherings and consequences
- Our first concern is the health of our community; those found to be hosting parties or having other gatherings that do not meet social distancing and masking expectations will be interviewed to understand the magnitude of the health threat of their actions. If needed for the health and safety of the campus, students involved in such activities may be self-quarantined, so that they are separated from others while we assess if they have COVID-19. They will be PCR tested on the fourth day after the event, and if negative, allowed to return to their assigned room.
- Depending on the severity and repetitive nature of the circumstances, students may also undergo student conduct, up to and including being required to not live on campus and study remotely for the remainder of the semester.
Leaving campus and visitors
- Students will be expected to remain on campus.
- Exceptions (e.g., for medical or family reasons) may be made and pre-authorization for a planned departure from campus can be attained through Erika Pappas (EPappas@Vassar.edu), Director of Case Management.
- In general, visitors may not come to campus. We will have various vendors and others come to campus for essential activities, but personal friends and family may not visit, in order to minimize excess risk of exposure.
- We expect classes will include a combination of in-person and remote learning, based on the professor’s design of the class and/or laboratory.
- Please check with your professors to learn how their classes will be formatted.
- Until weather permits, we will not have outdoor tents available. We have arranged to have some firepits for supporting outdoor activities.
- A decision on intercollegiate competition for spring season sports will be made at a later date, by or before approximately March 1. In-person practices and instruction for teams will be permitted once students have had two negative on-campus PCR tests.
- We are working on Commencement but do not have the plan set yet, as we consider various formats and approaches. We understand this is stressful, and we will let you know as soon as a plan comes together.