Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
We hope you are enjoying a productive and rewarding spring semester.
Today, we want to share with you some upcoming changes to our COVID-19 policies based on our assessment of the scientific data and guidance from health officials that show a steady decline of the Omicron variant across the country and in Worcester. The signs of the virus’ decline on our own campus are incredibly encouraging. You can track this data on the Healthy Clark dashboard.
Based on current trends, the following changes to our COVID protocols will take effect beginning Monday, February 21:
- Students will be required to test every 7 days rather than the current requirement of once every 3 days. Testing for faculty and staff will remain at once every 7 days. Anyone who wishes to test more frequently may do so.
- We will lift our request that non-student facing staff, in an effort to help reduce density on campus, work from home. We will return to the hybrid remote work policies that were in place during the fall semester. Employees should check with their supervisors for guidance in determining work modes.
At this time, we have no plans to adjust our masking policy, though we will continue to assess the situation and inform the community of any expected changes. It is important to note that we will see fewer people wearing masks in non-Clark environments now that Worcester will be lifting its indoor masking requirement on February 18. We are hopeful that later in the semester, if the downward trend of Omicron continues, we will be able to reevaluate our campus mask-wearing policies.
You likely know that the risk of severe illness from COVID has been dramatically reduced by vaccination and by the very nature of the Omicron variant, which is highly contagious but produces less severe symptoms than earlier strains of the virus, particularly among those who are fully vaccinated. The risk of infection and of significant illness is also reduced by the fact that so many individuals have already recovered from a COVID infection.
At the same time, we are aware of the negative impacts to individuals’ mental and emotional health posed by persistent disconnection and isolation. Returning to activities and operations that promote healthy socialization, even in a measured way, is essential.
It is clear that as COVID settles into the role of unwanted presence in our lives – perhaps for a very long time – we must learn to co-exist with it. The virus is a persistent yet increasingly lower risk, calling for sustainable mitigation efforts as opposed to dramatic interventions. Our response will appropriately evolve, as well. For instance, it is very likely that full surveillance testing may not be necessary in the future, especially given that our 98% vaccination rate is our most effective protection tool for life with the virus. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, our decisions will be based on data, trends, and current guidance from health professionals and others.
As Clark begins transitioning to more normalized operations, we thank you as always for your responsiveness to the many changes and challenges that COVID presents us, and for your Clarkie spirit, which makes this such a wonderful place to learn and work.