Dear Clark Students, Faculty, and Staff,
We deeply appreciate your continued responsiveness and caring for one another throughout the pandemic — especially most recently, as we’ve revised risk mitigation protocols (testing and mask-wearing) based on the sharp decline in the prevalence of COVID-19 infections. Of course, we are aware of and are monitoring the risks of the latest variant and, as before, will issue new guidelines or requirements as circumstances and public health data indicate it is necessary.
Today, we write to announce that masking inside classrooms will now be optional beginning on Monday, April 4. Faculty, however, are being given the authority, for the remainder of this semester, to set class-specific policies based on risks that they may be aware of but cannot, for health privacy reasons, share publicly with the class as a whole. We have no doubt that you will understand why this tailored approach is so important and will accommodate any faculty requests.
We move toward a fully mask- and test-optional campus appreciating that a vast majority of our community members continue to fulfill a commitment to personal health by taking measures that keep them and others safe, comfortable, and protected in their individual living, learning, and working situations. We also recognize how important it is to return to some semblance of normalcy given the long duration of pandemic-related restrictions.
Importantly, we want to underscore that mask-wearing always is welcome on our campus — indoors or out — for those who prefer an additional level of personal protection. Asking others to wear a mask out of concern for your personal health is both reasonable and acceptable for anyone to do, and the humane and respectful response to such a request is to be prepared to mask up. Even if you prefer not to wear a mask, it is a hallmark of kindness, generosity, and solidarity at this moment to check in with others who are within relatively close proximity, and to volunteer to wear a mask if they are uncomfortable.
As we continue to transition back to campus operations that more closely reflect pre-COVID conditions, we can expect occasional bumps in positivity within our own community and elsewhere. While our trends do not indicate a health threat, we have seen periodic spikes at Clark and have responded appropriately. We continue to closely track positivity across residence halls, in academic courses, in employee departments, and on athletic teams where close contact may occur.
While we have not taken the focus off of positivity rates, with fewer people being tested in health care and other institutional settings and the decline of serious COVID-related illness, the rates of positivity are no longer the most important metric in determining the virus’s overall impact. We also are monitoring valuable local data concerning hospitalizations and hospital capacity, as well as death rates. Another key data point we are following is the level of positivity detected through wastewater testing in the Boston area — an early indicator of COVID spread — which has not shown any dramatic increase since earlier this year.
Please remember that the most powerful tool against COVID-19 is to be fully vaccinated and boosted. The CDC recently expanded eligibility for some people to receive an additional booster, and if you are eligible we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity.
Together, we have weathered much over the past two years, and we believe it is now time to return as fully as we can to pre-pandemic patterns and customs of life on campus.