Nathan Howard ’25
The current academic year has presented many challenges regarding the College of the Holy Cross’s COVID response policies. This is especially true following the onset of the Omicron variant. While there was an expected increase in cases when students first returned to campus two weeks ago, there has been a declining positivity rate ever since. For nearly two weeks, the College’s seven-day positivity rate has remained below 1.5 percent and is expected to continue trending downwards. As of Feb. 11, 2022, the seven-day positivity rate of our campus community is at 0.8 percent. Because of this, the College has decided to implement changes regarding dining locations, visitor policies, as well as isolation and quarantine protocols.
Beginning on Feb. 9, 2022, all opened campus dining locations returned to full capacity, reflecting the College’s policy before the spread of the Omicron variant. Along with this announcement, Carrie Peck, the College’s COVID Response Director, reminded students that “eating is not permitted in classrooms, labs, or libraries,” and that “masks should continue to be worn indoors when you are not actively eating or drinking.” Dining locations returning to full capacity is a necessary part of the College’s “phased return to campus policy” and one that has been welcomed by the Holy Cross community.
Also on Feb. 9, the College updated their visitor policy to mirror the one implemented prior to the spring semester. Visitors to campus are required to show proof of either a COVID booster vaccine or a negative COVID test. The test may be a PCR test, taken within 72 hours of arrival, or a rapid antigen test, taken within 24 hours of arrival. At the start of the spring semester, visitors were required to show proof that they were vaccinated and boosted prior to entering the campus. However, as positive cases begin to decline, the College believes that proof of a negative COVID test is enough for campus visitors.
Furthermore, beginning on Feb. 11, 2022, student isolation in residence halls has come to an end. Residence hall isolation was a temporary policy instilled at the start of the semester to increase the College’s isolation capacity during the surge of cases. As cases continue to decline, this form of isolation is no longer necessary and students who test positive will be required to isolate themselves either at home or in the off-campus hotel provided by the College. It is recommended that students prepare a plan for isolation if they should test positive. The COVID safety precautions instilled in residence halls will remain in place until the final COVID-positive student finishes isolation. Once this is complete, the College plans to revisit the masking policy in residence halls.
The City of Worcester will lift its mask mandate on Feb. 18, 2022 as cases throughout the region continue to decline. The city has also petitioned Worcester colleges and universities with a vaccine mandate and a 90% vaccination rate to drop mask mandates. The College’s COVID Response Director Carrie Peck has responded to this by stating, “We will continue to make decisions regarding when and where to require masks based on what makes sense for our community and its needs.” If cases continue to fall, Ms. Peck believes that the campus may be able to implement safety policies that “more closely resemble pre-pandemic operations.”