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February 3, 2023: Spring Semester COVID-19 Update

Dear Members of the Whitman community,

I hope you all are staying warm this winter and that spring semester is going well for you. I am writing today with some updates to our current COVID-19 protocols that have been decided in collaboration with the cabinet, faculty leadership and our consulting epidemiologist.

As we continue to monitor the number of positive cases on campus, the daily and weekly counts remain low so far this semester, and much lower than they were at the beginning of fall semester. The results of our recent COVID-19 booster attestation survey are also encouraging, with 92% of students, faculty and staff reporting that they are up-to-date on their vaccination and booster schedule. 

Our Spring 2023 COVID-19 Protocols are now updated to reflect the following changes:

First, we are updating our definition of a “close contact” to exclude situations where either of the two people involved were masked during the interaction. This will reduce the number of people who need to mask up in response to a possible exposure, however, we still expect anyone who develops respiratory symptoms to take a COVID-19 test.

Second, we are updating our policy to allow people to “test out” of isolation with a negative test result as early as five days after their first day of symptoms or positive test. This is a reduction from the previous policy of seven days, and aligns with current CDC recommendations. Regardless of when isolation ends, you should continue to wear a mask for ten days from the initial symptoms or positive test.

As a reminder, we continue to offer free symptomatic testing and masks at the Health Center, anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask is encouraged to do so, and masks may be required by faculty in their classes or by staff in their office areas. As such it is still a good idea to carry a mask with you in case you are asked to wear one.

Finally, you may have heard in the news that the United States will end its COVID-19 emergency declaration on May 11th. On its own this will not have an immediate impact on Whitman campus policies (which have often gone further than what was required), however, we are already thinking about and discussing additional changes we may make for fall semester. If you have any thoughts on this matter, I welcome your feedback.

Wishing you all the best in 2023!

Peter Harvey
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force

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