By Brady Cote
Following suit of the past several starts to new semesters at Springfield College, the spring 2022 semester includes new COVID updates and protocols — all adopted from both the CDC and the City of Springfield.
The College held an open forum on Jan. 13 to answer frequently-asked COVID questions, including panel members President Mary-Beth Cooper, Dr. Slandie Dieujuste, Dr. Elizabeth Morgan and Dr. Mary Ann Coughlin.
With the recent spread of the highly infectious omicron COVID variant, concern has increased amongst students and faculty. However, the panel was confident in their delivery of as normal of a semester as possible — while remaining cautious of the given circumstances.
A large part of the forum revolved around confusion of the first day of classes, and questions of testing and booster status.
“We are planning a return to in-person classes, and as you all know, residential students will be tested upon arrival to campus,” Dr. Coughlin stated.
Before heading to an in-person class, students were required to produce a negative PCR test to ensure the safety of themselves and other community members.
Students have until March 1 to receive their booster shot and upload verification of their shot to the Health Center as the definition of “fully vaccinated” has now been changed to both the initial two vaccines as well as the booster shot.
“If you’re unable to receive the booster by then, we will work with those individuals to extend the deadline,” said Dr. Coughlin.
The campus’s high vaccination rate can be credited for the mild symptoms that those who test positive have been experiencing, which is why Springfield College is enforcing the full vaccination mandate.
“We want to make sure that we protect all community members as we continue to evaluate,” Dr. Dieujuste said.
“But we need to get a balance of where we are in the spring if we are going to meet our goal of continuing in-person classes.”
The panel unanimously stated that their goal of staying in-person was attainable for the semester, especially if everyone does their part by wearing their masks properly — that’s above the mouth and nose. It is proven that this Omicron variant is easily transmissible; therefore, proper mask-wearing is of utmost importance for this upcoming semester.
If students are to test positive or experience symptoms while on campus, it is up to that student to keep in contact with their professors to obtain the work and class information they have and will continue to miss in quarantine.
Although the CDC reduced the recommended days for quarantine, the College is still requiring a 10-day isolation. Students are welcome to choose whether to quarantine on-campus or at home.
There is no required testing throughout the semester – excluding athletes who follow NEWMAC criteria – but those who are feeling unwell or think they may be experiencing COVID symptoms can use the testing center when it is open and available for testing. This includes all students and faculty members.
This past semester, students were able to have non-Springfield College guests in residence halls and for overnight visits, but guests are not permitted in the resident halls this semester. They are allowed on campus, qand are allowed to attend sporting events while following the mask and vaccination policies.
The pandemic and therefore, the polices, are fluid, and rules can change rapidly — especially depending on the status of the CDC.
“It has no longer been just a daily conversation, it has evolved into multiple conversations [regarding campus updates] that take place daily instead,” said President Cooper.
As long as those on campus follow the newly updated guidelines, adhere to masking policies, and get their booster shot, it appears the campus is in for a great start to the 2022 spring semester.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College