Introducing mandatory weekly testing for all faculty, staff and students

Williams faculty, staff and students,

As you know, the Covid outlook is continually shifting, and Berkshire County is currently in the midst of a relative surge. Our campus masking and vaccination mandates were designed to reduce the chance of transmission and severe symptoms. And I am grateful for everything you have done for our safety: as of today, 97% of our campus community, including students, faculty and staff, has documented their vaccinations.

There are also particular challenges during the first few weeks of the term, as people return to campus from elsewhere. With that in mind, I have decided to take the additional precaution of returning Williams to required weekly testing.

All vaccinated faculty, staff, and students will be required to test once per week, starting Tuesday, September 7.

Anyone who has been granted an exemption, or who has not yet completed their vaccination will have to test twice per week, starting next Monday, August 30. The latter group is largely made up of the few people coming to Williams from locations where they were unable to get vaccinated. They will be required to begin the vaccine sequence immediately upon arrival.

We will start by requiring testing through September 30. The results will help us develop a more accurate sense of Covid risk and decide how well the campus is functioning under our rules. We will then decide whether to extend the requirement into October or curtail it.

Because there are groups with different requirements, here is a breakout of the key details:

  • Students, you must test on arrival at the college parking garage, as described in Marlene’s recent email. After that, look for a message from the college with details about your ongoing testing schedule for the term.
  • Staff, faculty and students with exemptions or who are still in the vaccination process must test twice weekly at the garage starting next Monday, August 30.
  • Vaccinated faculty and staff must begin weekly testing on Tuesday, September 7.
  • As a reminder, optional testing is already available to everyone and will continue to be so until mandatory tests start.
  • All faculty and staff must complete the testing consent form before your first test.
  • Testing for faculty and staff will then begin. Tests will be administered Monday through Thursday. The locations will be as follows:
    • Through Monday, September 6, optional testing will be offered at the parking garage. We will not have a drive-through option, but you may drive to the site and park on the second level of the garage while you get tested.
    • From Tuesday, September 7, through Thursday, September 9, mandatory testing will be available either at the garage or via drive-through at the Towne Field House. Both sites will be open to you from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you need accessible testing during this period, please use the Field House.
    • Starting Monday, September 13, all campus tests, indoors and drive-through, will be administered at the Field House, Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Anyone who observes Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on Monday, September 6, may start testing after the holiday.
  • We will announce an alternative testing schedule for people who work on second and third shifts.
  • Like last year, you will schedule tests and receive results via CoVerified (see instructions below).
  • People on leaves, sabbaticals and study away will not be required to test while off campus.
  • If you expect to be away and miss your weekly test, please email [email protected] in advance.
  • Children’s Center families will receive a separate message from Center Director Carrie Gagne about protocols there.

Positive results

Anyone who tests positive will be required to isolate for ten days per CDC guidelines, regardless of vaccination status. This includes faculty and staff as well as students. If you have a positive result you will be contacted by a medical professional with instructions. Your health is our first concern: Students will receive care via Student Health Services. Faculty and staff, please promptly contact your healthcare provider for medical advice.

Faculty, if you test positive please contact Safa about accommodations for your courses.

Staff, if you test positive and remain asymptomatic please work with your manager on possible remote work arrangements. If you are ill or cannot work remotely, please enter hours in PeopleSoft using the Covid-19 earnings code. Contact [email protected] with any questions.

Students, if you have to isolate or quarantine please your professors can work with you on a plan so that you will not fall behind.

CoVerified

If you were in our campus testing program in the past, please continue to use your existing CoVerified app or website login.

If you deleted the app, or if you are new to the program, you can download it from Apple App Store or Google Play Store and use the college’s instructions to log in.

web version is also available for anyone who prefers to work through your browser.

Site capacity

While I believe the new requirement will contribute to a feeling of safety, it will also require patience. Since we are not offering remote work and courses like last year, the entire Williams community will be in the testing program this fall. You may have to wait in a line or book your desired testing slots further in advance than you have been used to. I appreciate you respecting the system and honoring all appointments. Many of the people who will be testing this fall will be doing so for the first time, so please help them through the process if you see an opportunity.

Volunteers needed

In order to create a safe campus environment and make the process as easy as possible for everyone we need to adequately staff our testing site. Staff, if you are willing to take shifts from September 7 onward, please talk to your managers. Managers, I ask that you be as flexible as possible and encourage any of your staff who want to contribute to this campus effort.

We welcome both exempt and non-exempt staff willing to work one or more four-hour shifts. Volunteers will receive a five dollar per hour premium as thanks. Overtime will be paid to non-exempt staff whose volunteer shifts take you above 40 hours of work in a week.

Faculty, I know the start of the semester is a heavy lift already, but you are of course welcome to join if you have the flexibility.

Various senior staff and directors are taking shifts when possible, and I invite everyone to join in. Lunch and snacks will be provided. Please email Heather Main with your availability as soon as possible.

As information has continued to emerge about the uptick in cases, asymptomatic transmission, and other aspects of Covid, I have been persuaded that mandatory testing will enhance the safe environment we depend on for in-person learning. If we can establish a stable positive outlook for campus it may be possible to relax some of our rules later in the fall. I hope so, and appreciate everyone doing what you can to help get us to that outcome.

In the meantime, I wish you all a smooth return to campus and a good start to the new academic year.

Maud