c/o Alexandra Turtil, Assistant Photo Editor

c/o Alexandra Turtil, Assistant Photo Editor

With nearly all students, faculty, and staff fully vaccinated, the University has relaxed COVID-19 restrictions this semester in comparison with last year’s more stringent guidelines. While all students still need to wear masks indoors and get tested for COVID-19 twice a week, room capacities are higher, vaccinated close contacts no longer have to quarantine, and most students do not need to wear masks while outside.

According to a campus-wide email from Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney on Monday, Sept. 13, 99% of students and 96.5% of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated. Last spring, a total of 54 students tested positive over the course of the semester. Since the start of the fall semester, 32 students have tested positive. There are currently eleven active COVID-19 cases.

“Given what we know about the delta variant, we are pleased that our positivity rate is below .3%,” Rick Culliton, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, wrote in an email to The Argus. “We will continue to monitor this as we know other colleges have experienced clusters of breakthrough cases that have forced them to modify their activities on campus.”

To keep transmission rates low, the University advised against all large social gatherings. Public Safety (PSafe) has been working to monitor the size of gatherings and the behavior of students in attendance. The University also encourages students to take food to go and dine outside when possible.

“When people congregate in large numbers and in close proximity, there is an increased risk of COVID if someone is infected,” Culliton wrote in a campus-wide email on Sept. 16. “If you plan on being in a large group of people outdoors, we encourage you to wear a mask.”

Wood-frame houses can now register parties, but attendance is capped at a total of 25 students indoors and outdoors. Gatherings in wood-frame houses should not exceed the fire code capacity for safety and contact tracing reasons. For outdoor gatherings, the University encourages but does not require all attendees to maintain distance and remain masked.

“We know that students are glad to be back on campus and feel some relief being on a vaccinated campus,” Culliton wrote. “People are also tired of having to be careful, but I think most recognize that we are still in a pandemic. It is important for all of us to continue to wear masks indoors and reduce the times where people are in large groups without masks or physical distance.”

Wesleyan’s discouragement of indoor gatherings comes as Connecticut College has faced an outbreak of COVID-19 on its campus. Conn. College requires students and faculty to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, enforces masking and has social distancing rules similar to Wesleyan’s. However, nearly 170 students at Conn. College tested positive during the week of Sept. 6 to Sept. 12. While Conn. College has since been able to control the outbreak, the incident emphasized the risk posed by the delta variant, even on a small, vaccinated campus, and stressed the importance of Wesleyan’s own COVID-19 safety regulations.

“We have seen a recent example in Connecticut of what can happen if we are not careful,” Culliton wrote in a campus-wide email on Sept. 16. “Connecticut College was forced to move to remote learning for two weeks after a cluster of 170 student COVID cases resulted from students socializing without masks.”

A fall operations email sent out on Aug. 16 noted that only unvaccinated students and staff would be required to get weekly COVID-19 tests, but the University later amended regulations to mandate biweekly testing for all students, regardless of vaccination status. Testing is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Beckham Hall. The frequency of testing is subject to change based on COVID-19 conditions on campus, but Culliton stressed that adherence to testing rules is an integral part of keeping everyone on campus safe.

“We will continue to monitor testing results and we may reduce the frequency of testing if the conditions allow us to,” Culliton wrote.

Symptomatic students and unvaccinated students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 10 days, according to Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Planning Anne Laskowski. Students who test positive but are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic must isolate and then retest twice. If both tests are negative, they can leave quarantine early.

“The delta variant is a concern because [we] know that even those who are vaccinated can still contract and transmit COVID to others, so we still need to act cautiously to be sure that those members of our extended community (faculty, staff and students who are immunocompromised and family members of faculty and staff who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated) will be safe,” Culliton wrote.

Last year, all close contacts—anyone who was within six feet of a positive case for 15 minutes or longer—were required to quarantine for 14 days following their last contact with the positive case. This semester, unvaccinated or symptomatic close contacts are instead required to quarantine for 10 days. Fully vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts do not need to quarantine.

“Close contacts who are fully vaccinated…[are] encouraged to take extra safety precautions such as to-go dining only and wearing a mask at all times (indoors and outdoors),” Laskowski wrote in an email to The Argus. “They will retest in 3–5 days.”

Students who have access to a private bathroom can isolate themselves in their residence. The University is primarily using the Inn at Middletown as a residence for students, but it has also reserved 38 beds in 19 rooms at the Inn to isolate positive cases and unvaccinated close contacts.

“We have been in contact with other hotels if we need additional [quarantine] space for the short term,” Culliton wrote.

The Pandemic Planning Committee will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases on campus and modify COVID-19 restrictions as necessary. 

“Students can help us keep our cases low by getting their twice weekly tests, limiting the number of people they are gathering with, and wearing masks indoors,” Culliton wrote.

Elias Mansell can be reached at emansell@wesleyan.edu

Catherine Sherman can be reached at csherman@wesleyan.edu

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