Posted on Tuesday, July 20, 2021
July is halfway over, which is a signal that the academic year is quickly approaching. We hope you’ve been enjoying a fun, renewing, and productive summer. Westminster College will be returning to fully in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 academic year, and we are strongly encouraging vaccination. This position has not changed, and the policies you can expect for fall will reflect this position. Faculty and staff have spent the summer preparing for in-person classes and services, and we are not planning for remote or hybrid learning at the level you experienced last year. We are committed to providing you with a safe living and learning environment. In fact, nearly 70% of employees have been vaccinated and this number is increasing daily.
I’d like to speak to three main points that will impact the extent to which we can return to normal this fall, understanding that you play a critical role in protecting the “We in Westminster.”
The coronavirus is still with us. New variants continue to emerge, some more transmissible than previous variants have been. Community members can expect fluid and flexible policies that change based on infection and vaccination rates, both on campus and in the local community. These policies will include targeted masking, distancing, reentry and surveillance testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation. Specifically, the CDC continues to advise masking, testing, and quarantine for unvaccinated individuals, and our policies will reflect this guidance. NCAA requires testing of any unvaccinated student athlete 3 times weekly.
COVID-19 vaccinations are our best defense. We are a residential community, and high rates of vaccination substantially reduce the risk of outbreak and serious infection. We want each and every student to stay healthy and well to minimize any disruption to your education and college experience. We strongly recommend every student be fully vaccinated prior to returning to campus and urge you to upload your vaccination records to the student health portal as soon as possible.
Campus vaccination rates will shape our policies. Because we are not requiring vaccines, CDC guidance recommends we maintain the restrictions that were in place spring 2020 unless we can reach high rates of vaccination. Currently, only 23% of students have reported being fully vaccinated. Our target vaccination rate is 85% of students. When we reach this target, many of the restrictions will be lifted for all students. For example, masking indoors will no longer be required, dining halls will return to full capacity, residence hall and fraternity house visitation will return to pre-pandemic policies.
In order to comply with health and athletic requirements, we will assume every student is unvaccinated unless students provide records of their vaccination status. Any information students share via the student health portal or to athletic trainers is protected and will be used only to treat an individual student. That said, cumulative vaccination rates of the student body will be determined based on those records provided to the Wellness Center via the student health portal. Student athletes will need to submit their records to the athletic trainers AND via the student health portal.
Vaccination clinics will be available on campus this fall. More details on our fall COVID-19 policies will be available in the coming weeks, including policies about academic classes, labs, and performances.
You can find the Student Health Portal here: https://www.westminster.edu/campus/health/health-center.cfm
May your summer days be full! We look forward to having you back on campus soon.