Lafayette Students, 

Welcome back to campus for the spring semester.

We return to campus with the knowledge that we have more work to do in managing this new phase of COVID-19. For two years we have worked together to meet each new challenge and the coming semester will be no different. The surge in cases across the country has been alarming but advances in treatments and the continued effectiveness of vaccines to mitigate the most serious outcomes of the disease are encouraging for what lies ahead. We know there are still risks in navigating any shared spaces whether on-campus or in our home communities.

I want to underscore that our commitment to each other requires that we make decisions that protect our own health and the health of all the community. This includes wearing masks indoors. That said, there is no guarantee that any combination of strategies will protect us individually from COVID-19. We layer multiple strategies, adapt as situations change, and continue to do our best in caring for each other.

  • Masking: We encouraged students to secure KN95 or higher quality masks in an earlier update and have made KN95 masks available for faculty and staff since early January. We also note the planned distribution of N95 masks by the federal government is slated to begin next week. Wearing your mask, whatever one you have available, and wearing it properly inside all our buildings is important.
  • Grab-and-go dining: Our dining halls will remain open for students but we strongly encourage students to take food to go until their arrival test results are back. Masking at all times in the dining halls, except when eating, is required. We also encourage students to avoid dining together in large groups until all the arrival tests return next week.
  • Isolation housing: Many colleges and universities have acknowledged, and we do as well, that it is possible our COVID-19 cases may exceed our capacity to isolate students. We have maintained the 150 spaces we secured last fall through a local hotel and will continue to expect students to return home if possible. We have reduced the driving distance to a two-hour radius. If our ability to isolate students outstrips our capacity to do so, we will prioritize those spaces for certain symptomatic cases. This means we may expand the places we keep students in their own rooms beyond their off-campus apartments and suites. If we reach 75% capacity in our isolation housing stock, we will notify the community that we are moving to an altered isolation plan. This plan will include access to food as well as cleaning and masking supplies for students who are expected to remain in place.
  • Testing: The testing strategy we outlined included shipping pre-arrival test kits to students and, as we learned over the weekend, the testing company encountered an issue with that process. Students began receiving test kits on Jan. 19 rather than the original, agreed-upon dates last week. Students who have not returned the kit may hold on to it for future use this semester if they wish. Arrival tests throughout the weekend will be expedited by the lab but the volume of testing everywhere remains very high so we do not wish to escalate expectations regarding the turnaround time. As a reminder, testing is a look at a single moment in time and while it helps shape our decisions, we also know that testing asymptomatic individuals is not a universally embraced strategy.

We are deploying our antigen testing resources strategically and intend to use the bulk of those resources on symptomatic students, conducting exit testing following the fifth day of isolation to determine if they can safely return to classes and activities and testing close contacts. Weekly, on-site PCR testing will primarily be used for any member of our community expected to test due to an exemption from vaccination any monitoring testing the Health Center determines is warranted and, as space permits, for any member of the community who wants to test each week. All PCR testing is scheduled through the Aura app and links were sent to students with instructions on setting up an account. 

  • Regular updates: For the first several weeks of the semester, I will provide a weekly COVID-19 update on Fridays. This will allow us to keep the community on College Hill, as well as families at home, updated on where we stand. Our COVID-19 dashboard will be updated with the arrival testing results and then twice weekly thereafter. 

Be well and stay safe,

Annette Diorio
Vice President for Campus Life