Dear Whitman community,

I wanted to provide you an update on how the COVID-19 outbreak has continued to develop. Last week we had a total of 39 new cases (36 students and 3 employees), down from 68 cases the previous week, and so far today we have had four more, which brings us up to 136 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past three weeks. Fortunately, many of these people have now recovered, and as of today we have 21 students isolating in Whitman-provided housing and another 10 isolating in their off-campus housing, with two employees isolating at home.

These slowly-dropping numbers align with the expectation of our epidemiologist that our indoor masking requirement and social gathering restrictions have brought us over the peak of transmission; as long as we keep these measures in place, we should continue to see spread slowing and fewer new cases. However, our epidemiologist also thinks it realistic that, for the rest of the semester, we will continue to see a small number of cases given the highly infectious nature of the currently dominant coronavirus variants.

Therefore, at the recommendation of our epidemiologist, the Cabinet and elected faculty leadership have decided that we will maintain the N95 or equivalent masking requirement for indoor public spaces on campus through Commencement. We also strongly encourage you to wear a mask in other settings where risk of transmission is high, such as in your house/room if you have a roommate who is symptomatic or has been exposed.

As we continue planning for an in-person Commencement ceremony, we have also decided to require masks at that event to help protect the health of our students as well as the many family members, friends and members of the 50th Reunion alumni group who will be coming to campus. For the sake of everyone who is looking forward to this celebration, please be diligent in following all our campus COVID-19 protocols over the next few weeks.

As a reminder, here is what we are asking you to do from now through Commencement:

  • Continue masking in all campus indoor public spaces with N95/KN95/KF94 masks.
  • Limit your social gatherings to your immediate residence hall or household to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
  • As the weather allows, move organized and informal activities, such as club meetings, meals or group study sessions, outdoors whenever possible.
  • Events held indoors should take place in the biggest space available so that attendees can be well spread out and should open windows and doors whenever possible to improve air circulation.
  • For on-campus dining, when possible use the Bon Appetit mobile app to order ahead and get meals to go or eat outside.
  • Consider wearing N95 masks in your living situation, especially if someone in your living group is symptomatic, a close contact or has tested positive.

As we start the month of May, please do everything that you can to keep reducing the spread of COVID-19 so that you, your friends and the Whitman community can enjoy these final few weeks of the academic year.

Best,
Peter

Peter Harvey
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force