To: Wellesley College Faculty and Staff
From: President Paula A. Johnson
Re: Keeping Our Community Healthy
Date: August 4, 2020
Last month, we shared more details on our health and safety protocols with students and families. Today, I want to share additional information with you, respond to some of the questions that have been raised recently at Academic and Administrative Council, and outline a few guiding principles that are shaping our approach to health and safety in the year ahead. I also want to invite you to a webinar on Wednesday, August 5, from 2–3 p.m. to answer any remaining questions you may have about health and safety at Wellesley this fall.
Reduce population density on our campus
One of the most effective ways to keep our community healthy is to limit the number of people on campus. Currently, we plan to welcome just under 1,300 students, including the majority of first-years and sophomores; student leaders; international students; and several hundred juniors and seniors who have a strong need or interest in being on campus.
In addition to students, approximately 130 faculty will be teaching in-person classes and working with students in labs, and approximately 300 staff members, including union employees, will be on campus supporting our students and keeping the important work of the College going. To the greatest extent possible, we will limit access to campus to this group of faculty and staff who have been designated to return. Faculty and staff who are not in this group are welcome in outdoor campus spaces, but they will not have access to campus buildings except with approval from the Office of the Provost or their managers. The campus will continue to be closed to the public.
Prepare our indoor spaces
Facilities Management is cleaning all spaces, including private offices, classrooms, meeting rooms, restrooms, and common areas. In addition to cleaning the residence halls twice daily, they will clean classrooms, meeting rooms, restrooms, and common areas in academic and administrative buildings daily. Private offices will be cleaned per the normal cleaning schedule. Disinfectants will be available in classrooms for personal use. Hand sanitizing stations have been installed at building entrances and at convenient locations throughout the buildings.
Facilities Management has conducted a building-by-building assessment of air circulation and is working to ensure that our ventilation systems in key shared spaces, such as classrooms, meeting rooms and common areas, comply with guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The guidelines state that, where feasible, buildings should provide three to four air changes per hour with 100 percent outside air. We will be able to meet these guidelines, which are more stringent than the guidance from the CDC and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Facilities will continue to inspect and evaluate our ventilation systems throughout the semester.
Test early and often
Testing is the most powerful tool we have to identify and contain the virus quickly. Thanks to our partnership with the Broad Institute, we will be able to provide asymptomatic testing to faculty and staff who have regular and significant interaction with students using a highly accurate PCR test that involves swabbing both nostrils. Results will be available within 24 hours, which will allow us to identify positive cases early, quickly notify individuals who test positive so that they can isolate themselves, and identify and notify close contacts so that they can quarantine.
Students will be tested every two to three days for the first two weeks, and then once weekly throughout the fall. Weekly testing will also be available to faculty and staff who have significant and regular in-person contact with students. This includes faculty who are teaching in-person classes and working with students in the lab; Residential Life staff; Health Services and counseling staff; testing staff; police; and dining, custodial, and trades staff.
We will not be providing asymptomatic testing to other faculty and staff, even if they will be working on campus and might have some contact with students. With adherence to the campus health and safety protocols, including maintaining physical distance, wearing face masks, and frequently washing hands, other faculty and staff do not face risks that warrant inclusion in the asymptomatic testing program.
Students who experience symptoms will be tested at Health Services, thanks to our collaboration with Newton-Wellesley Collegiate Health. Faculty and staff who experience symptoms should coordinate directly with their own health care providers for symptomatic testing. If symptomatic faculty or staff run into problems obtaining a test in a timely manner, Newton-Wellesley Hospital has agreed to help coordinate testing for them.
The asymptomatic testing program will begin for all groups the week of August 17. We will be sharing additional information in advance with designated student-facing faculty and staff members in order to facilitate registration for the testing program. We plan to have two testing sites on campus: one on the upper level of the College Club in the Wall Room, and one on the lower level of the Davis Parking Garage near the Lulu Wang Campus Center. We will be using an app developed by a faculty member at Tufts University to schedule testing, and we will share negative results (typically available within 24 hours) with individuals via this app. A health care professional will personally contact individuals who test positive. It is possible that this app may not be fully operational by August 17, so we may schedule the first tests using a different method.
In this together
While we will not all be on campus, we are truly in this together as a community. Therefore, we are asking all employees to sign the Acknowledgement form (which is already available at this link) and complete health and safety training so that everyone has the same understanding of the steps the College is asking faculty and staff to take to keep the community healthy. We will also be hosting a series of health and safety training webinars next week and will share details shortly.
In addition to signing the acknowledgement form and health and safety training, any employee who comes to campus will be required to complete the daily health check. Faculty and staff who are not regularly coming to campus should first obtain approval from the Office of the Provost or their manager if they plan to come to campus and complete the daily symptom tracker so that they can receive OneCard building access.
We are developing an online reporting system so that members of the community can suggest ways to improve health and safety protocols or indicate how/when existing protocols like the Code of Conduct are not being observed in classrooms or in other campus spaces. The goal of this reporting system is to help us develop a culture of health and safety as we implement our plan.
As we ask for your support with community compliance, we will keep you informed of the number of cases on campus. We will share the numbers of new positive tests and the total number of current positive cases in the community on a weekly basis. Out of respect for personal privacy, we will not share names or identify categories of individuals (i.e. faculty, staff, student).
We are currently working to determine what criteria would require us to move to remote instruction on a temporary or permanent basis, and we will share those with you once they are developed.
When can faculty come to campus if they need to pick up teaching materials?
We encourage faculty who need to come to campus to pick up teaching or work materials to do so before August 21 when students will begin arriving. Faculty and staff can do so once they complete the acknowledgement form, the health and safety training, and the daily health check (which will be available in the Portal under Administrivia once the Acknowledgement form is completed) for the day they are coming to campus.
Starting on August 21, faculty or staff working remotely will no longer have access to campus buildings–and will need to get approval from the Office of the Provost or their manager to come to campus.
If a student tests positive
Here is a brief outline of the key steps the College will take:
- Health Services will be notified immediately if a student tests positive and will immediately contact the student and ensure appropriate clinical care.
- Health Services will also contact the Dean of Students, who will ensure that Residence Life staff helps the student move to one of the small residence halls reserved for isolation and that the class dean will support the student academically.
- Health Services will immediately notify the trained contact-tracing team on campus, which will then work with the student and coordinate with the Wellesley Board of Health to identify all close contacts and determine if others in the community may need to be quarantined. Given that all students and faculty will be masked and physically distanced in classrooms, as a general rule not all members of a class would be considered close contacts and expected to quarantine if a student or the faculty member tests positive.
- Students identified through contact tracing as close contacts will be asked to quarantine in designated rooms on campus for 14 days.
- The class dean will work with faculty members teaching the student’s in-person classes to ensure that the student is able to continue attending remotely during the 10-day isolation or the 14-day quarantine period, to the extent possible. They will also work with students who need to quarantine because they are close contacts.
- Faculty and staff designated as close contacts will be asked to quarantine at home for 14 days.
- In the event that a faculty member needs to quarantine, the Office of the Provost will work with them to ensure a smooth transition.
If a faculty or staff member experiences COVID-19 symptoms
- All faculty and staff must complete a daily symptom tracker before coming to campus. Those who are not cleared for work by the tracker should contact their manager to let them know they will be staying home. Faculty should take appropriate steps to cover any in-person classes. We will be hiring temporary nursing staff to follow up with faculty and staff who receive this response to provide guidance on whether they should consult a primary care physician (PCP). As stated above, if faculty or staff members have trouble obtaining a COVID-19 test, Newton-Wellesley Hospital has offered to help.
- If a faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they will need to isolate at home and not come to campus for 10 days, and may not return until they have been fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms have improved. Trained contact tracers on campus will follow up with individuals who test positive and coordinate with the local board of health to identify any close contacts within the College community who may need to quarantine. All contact tracing is confidential.
- Faculty and staff who are required to quarantine or isolate may be able to work from home. If they are not, staff will need to take sick time to cover their absence.
College-provided masks for faculty and staff
The College is providing nonsurgical, disposable masks to faculty and staff who will be regularly interacting with students on campus, including:
- Dining and custodial staff (provided daily)
- Other union workers: facilities, grounds and their managers
- Residence Life staff
- Faculty teaching in person. Note: Faculty and students in language classes will receive clear masks.
- Staff and student workers in customer-facing positions
In closing, I want to express my gratitude to the many members of our community who have helped develop our health and safety plans and protocols for the fall. This has been a significant undertaking, and I am very proud that the plan is comprehensive, exceeds federal and state guidelines, and reflects Wellesley’s commitment to educate, engage, and support our students and to protect our community during this extraordinary time.
I hope you all are able to take some time over the next few weeks to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the last weeks of summer. I thank you for your partnership, your dedication, and your shared commitment to maintaining the health and safety of our community, and I look forward to working with all you in the year ahead.