Updates on COVID-19 and Important New Information

Dear Students, 

Thank you for all that you have been doing to keep COVID-19 off campus. We’ve had two and a half weeks of no student cases! As we approach the midpoint in the semester I have some important information to share with you so please take the time to carefully review this message. 

Many of you have inquired about what will influence the College’s planning related to COVID-19 in the coming months and you’ve asked questions about boosters and social host gatherings. I want to speak directly to these good questions and also share some changes in our protocols with you. In this message I address several topics:

  • Variables that may influence future COVID-19 protocols

  • Vaccine booster shots for students 

  • Flu clinic  

  • Social host

  • Contact tracing 

  • New protocol for isolation 

Variables that may influence future protocols
Based on our continuing consultations with public health experts, we expect that a few factors will potentially influence campus protocols as we go into next semester: 

  • A predicted decline in cases nationwide and within Connecticut in the coming months

  • For people who had Pfizer vaccines in the initial doses, current booster availability and for those who had Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, booster availability will be coming soon. Based on the latest CDC guidance, we expect boosters for all three vaccines will be available for the groups noted below:

    • People aged 65 and older

    • People aged 18-64 with underlying medical conditions

    • People aged 18-64 who work in particular types of roles including those who work in educational settings and those who reside at schools (this latter portion is new guidance from the CDC and enables our students to receive boosters) 

  • Vaccine availability for children aged 5-11. 

These factors combined may enable us to begin the spring semester differently than we did in August when our plans changed due to the Delta variant. 

Vaccine booster shots for students
The CDC recently revised their recommendations related to eligibility for Pfizer booster to include students living on college campuses. The CDC’s language specifically says the following: 

“Adults aged 18–64 years who work or reside in certain settings (e.g., health care, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters) may be at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which could be spreading where they work or reside. Since that risk can vary across settings and based on how much COVID-19 is spreading in a community, people aged 18–64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster shot after considering their individual risks and benefits.”

Given this guidance, those of you who completed the Pfiizer initial vaccine series at least six months ago can get a booster on your own or you can wait until early November when the College will likely be hosting a vaccine booster clinic. We are in the process of setting this clinic up so more details will be forthcoming. If you choose to get the booster on your own you can find vaccination sites by visiting the CT Vaccine Portal. We expect the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters to be approved in the coming weeks.  

Flu vaccine clinic
It is important for you to also get the flu vaccine given that flu season is upon us. We will have a second flu vaccine clinic on campus on Wednesday October 13 from 12:00 to 3:00 at Student Health Services (no appointment needed). You may also choose to get the flu vaccine over fall break or Thanksgiving break but we do recommend getting this vaccine as soon as possible given that we are likely to have both flu and COVID-19 on campus at the same time. 

Social host
Social host is the term we use at Conn when students who are at least 21 years of age host their own private parties of a certain size where they have the option to serve alcohol (served only to students who are at least 21 years of age). Beginning next week, CC Curtiss, director for wellbeing and health promotion, will begin offering training sessions for people interested in being social host trained. When hosting a party, the number of people inside a River Ridge or Winchester apartment will continue, for the time being, to be limited at 15 but we will be piloting the ability to host up to 25 people outside of a River Ridge or Winchester apartment. More information on this will be coming from Student Life and explained in the training sessions.    

Contact tracing
I’d like to remind you to be alert to the people you are sitting around in meetings and classes so that you are able to note who those people are when asked through contact tracing should you be positive for COVID-19 at some point in the future. You should note the people sitting to your left, right, behind you, and in front of you. Some faculty and staff may assign seating in classrooms and meetings. Others may set aside time for people to introduce themselves. Please make an effort to note this information so that a potential future contact tracing conversation can yield as much information as possible.  

New protocol for isolation
We also are making a few changes starting now to improve how we handle isolation housing in order to implement strategies that make management of COVID-19 on campus more sustainable.

As you know, during the early-September outbreak we used a combination of isolation housing on campus and in area hotels. Moving forward, since we have fewer hotel spaces available to us than we did in early November, we will begin to transition to having students isolate in place whenever possible rather than moving to a different location on campus or off. This enables students to be in their own room, with their own belongings, with access to College WiFi, and easier access to College food, medical staff, etc. This is possible because we have developed clear expectations and protocols that will significantly limit students’ contact with others while remaining in their assigned space. We will use the following approach for students who test positive: 

  • Students who live in singles:

    • Students who live in singles will isolate in their own room. While in their room they can not have visitors and they can not visit other people’s rooms or common areas in the residence halls. They may leave their room only to go to the bathroom, to go outside to be on their own, or to go pick up food at a special pick-up location from Harris. When they leave their room they must wear a mask at all times.

    • When at least one student in a residence hall is positive and isolating in the building, the building residents will be notified that one of the bathrooms in the building will be designated as a bathroom for isolating students (a sign will be placed on the door). Students living on the floor with the designated isolation bathroom will use the bathrooms on the floors above or below while their bathroom is designated as an isolation bathroom. 

    • When the building no longer has students isolating, an email will be sent to the building residents, the sign on the designated isolation bathroom will be removed, and the bathroom will be opened back up for general use. 

    • Student(s) using the designated isolation bathroom during the isolation period are expected to use the provided disinfectant solution to wipe down fixtures used in the bathroom. The bathroom will also be periodically cleaned by custodial staff.

  • Students who live in doubles, triples, quads: 

    • If a positive student has roommate(s), the positive student will be moved to designated on-campus isolation housing or hotel isolation housing (consistent with what we have done thus far this year).

    • If the positive student’s roommate(s) subsequently become positive during the 10-day isolation period, the positive student at the hotel will be moved back to their room to isolate with their positive roommate(s). Bathroom protocols are as noted above. 

  • Students who live in an apartment will operate similarly to the above protocols except that if the positive student is isolating within the apartment in a single or if two students in a double are positive, as noted above, the students will isolate in the apartment and the group will share the single occupancy bathroom. Students are using the bathroom one at a time, will wear masks when possible, and will use the provided disinfectant solution to wipe down fixtures used in the bathroom. 

This approach to isolation is a step towards developing ways to live with COVID-19 given that it will likely be with us for a while. As with everything, we will be continually evaluating the plans and making adjustments where necessary.  Thank you for your attention to this adjustment in our approach and for your flexibility and cooperation as we implement and evaluate it. 

I hope that the information in this message is helpful to you as we continue to navigate our way through the semester taking precautions with COVID-19 and identifying new approaches to activate campus to enhance the student experience. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and, in particular, enjoy Saturday’s Fall Ball. 

Sincerely, 

Victor Arcelus
Dean of Students