Danielle Dentremont ’25
The spring semester may now be in full swing, but COVID-19’s Omicron variant continues to impede Holy Cross’s ability to resume complete normalcy in campus life. With the first two weeks of classes consisting of a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes, the third week of the semester has reinstated fully in-person classes as well as restored a sense of optimism. This optimism stems from greater normalcy in the classroom as well as the Feb. 4 COVID-19 update from the Holy Cross Administration that noted positive cases were trending favorably down.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the spring semester, the Holy Cross Administration instituted pre-arrival protocols to mitigate the inevitable rise in cases that would occur upon students’ and faculty’s arrival to campus. Such protocols included the requirement of the booster vaccine for all eligible members of the college’s population; however, administration reiterated that previously granted religious or medical exemptions for the initial doses of the vaccine would be applied to booster requirements. Unlike the first semester, COVID-19 tests were required prior—in addition to upon—arrival. Students had a choice of submitting a PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival to campus or a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of their arrival to campus.
Now past the prevention stage of positive COVID-19 cases on campus, administration has implemented new isolation, masking, dining and visitor policies to best facilitate students’ recovery from the virus as well as minimize the virus’s spread. In a Jan. 14 email from administration, the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant was noted to render contract tracing less effective in preventing the transmission of the virus. Due to the shortened period of isolation of five days stipulated by the CDC as well as the limited isolation space for students, the aforementioned email stated that isolation “may include recovery with roommates who have not yet tested positive for COVID-19, with the assumption that these individuals already are close contacts who have been exposed.”
The greater infection rate of the Omicron variant poses a risk of more rapid transmission than the Delta variant that primarily plagued college campuses in the fall. With this infection rate in mind, the Holy Cross Administration now requires that all members of the community wear “surgical masks or better.” The “better” masks include N95, KN95 and KF94 masks—this requirement prohibits the use of cloth masks unless paired with a surgical mask.
Dining policies have been in a state of flux the past few weeks due to both COVID-19 and weather constraints. In-person dining returned to Kimball Main and Crossroads on Feb. 1 with some seating blocked off to maintain distancing. The COVID-19 Core team closed the email with this announcement with a call for patience and perseverance: “We also recognize that this is our students’ home, and that the challenges of the past two years have been draining. As we work to balance the physical and mental health of all those on campus, we encourage our faculty and staff to have compassion and patience for our students during this extraordinary time.”
Administration closed the Feb. 4 COVID-19 Updates email with a similar sentiment reminding the community that “The better our numbers, the more likely we’ll be able to make changes to our policies. Keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll continue to get through this together.”
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