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With the increased transmission of the Omicron variant, the College now requires students to wear N95, KN95 or KF94 masks. “No major changes have been made except for pre-arrival and arrival testing and use of new high-quality medical grade masks (N95, KN95 or KF94) for shared indoor spaces,” said Angela Johnston, chief of staff and secretary of the College. Students received a few of these masks upon arrival and have access to masks at various academic and social locations on campus. “Additional masks are available to all campus members at all academic departments, the libraries, the Scot Center, APEX, Lowry and other locations,” said Johnston. Some students, such as Heather Cook ’25, support the College’s use of these masks. “Our mask policy is good, and requiring vaccinations is good,” said Cook, “because we are able to return to class quicker when people are getting less sick and less contagious.” 

Another change in policy is the requirement for all non-exempt students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot by Feb. 1. “Students who face obstacles to meet the Feb. 1 deadline should email The College of Wooster COVID-19 Response at as soon as possible to discuss next steps,” Johnston said. The exact steps an un-boosted student will follow after Feb. 1 will be handled on a case-by-case basis, depending on how recently they completed their primary vaccine series. Johnston explains, “there are timelines based on when you received certain vaccinations that would put you into the unvaccinated category if you’ve not had a booster.” This is in line with CDC guidelines: those who completed their original series of vaccinations over six months ago for Pfizer/Moderna, or over two months ago for J&J, but have not been boosted need to follow the same guidelines as an unvaccinated person on campus, whereas those who are still in the six or two month period after their initial vaccination process can follow the same guidelines as people who have received a booster shot.

In an email sent to the College community on Jan. 5, Johnston stated,  “Students, staff and faculty who have not met the College’s vaccination and/or booster requirements will continue to test weekly during the spring semester.” This means that after Feb. 1, students who are not up to date with their booster shots (meaning the six or two month period has passed) will follow the same weekly testing procedures as students who are unvaccinated. Additionally, there may be “surveillance testing” administered to asymptomatic individuals at some point “further into the semester,” said Johnston, but no date has been set.

Students went through two rounds of testing at the start of the semester, which saw 31 positive COVID-19 tests, the most positive COVID-19 tests reported by the College since October of 2020. 

The current guidelines for students who test positive for COVID-19 remain the same, regardless of vaccination status. After testing positive, the College’s Department of Campus Safety transports students to an off-campus hotel for students to serve their isolation period. At the off-campus location, the student must isolate for 24 hours, then five consecutive 24-hour periods after that for a total of six days. At this point, if their symptoms are gone or resolving, they will take a rapid test. If the test is negative, they can leave isolation. For the next four days, however, they will be required to wear a mask at all times, both indoors and outdoors. Carson Gutierrez ’23, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 19 at the College’s Longbrake Student Wellness Center, said that the College accommodated him with adequate supplies during his isolation period. The College supplied Gutierrez with $60 per day of Grubhub: Food Delivery, a care package from the Wellness Center containing medicine and snacks, and a PCR and rapid COVID-19 test. When asked if the College provided enough supplies for his isolation period, Gutierrez answered affirmatively. “I went from a basement room in one of the dorms to a second level, big window, air-conditioned hotel,” they said. 

For students who are close contacts with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, quarantine guidelines are based on their vaccination status. Students who are up-to-date with their vaccines are not required to quarantine after close contact. “However, they must wear a mask indoors and outdoors for ten days, and they must take a PCR test on the fifth day after exposure,” said Johnston. “If they test positive and/or develop symptoms, they will need to isolate.”

This quarantine policy is not the case for unvaccinated students, a category which includes students who are not up to date on their booster shots. Students who are close contacts who do not meet these vaccine requirements, “are required to quarantine for five days, take a rapid test on day five, and continue to mask indoors and outdoors through day 10 regardless of test result.”

At this time, students are still subject to the Community Care Agreement they agreed to before the start of the school year, the first passage of which reads, “All individuals will abide by current expectations for campus life that the College will provide over time, based on evolving public health guidance.” Many students said that the College’s guidelines are adequate in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on campus, and feel comfortable with the recent changes in campus health expectations. “They’re doing everything a school can possibly do to prevent COVID,” Chris Luckie ’25 said, “like the booster shots and making us wear KN95s.”

Zen Miller ’25, agrees with Luckie. “I’m glad about requiring boosters and masks, and about having booster clinics,” Miller said. “Before I came here, it was all really stressing me out, but now that I’m back, it’s not that bad.” 

Some students, however, believe that the College should have taken a more cautious approach to the semester’s start. “If I was the one to decide, we would have stayed virtual for a little bit longer,” said Colin Froe ’25, “since you can never be too cautious with the Omicron variant. With lots of people getting sick right now, I feel like everyone should be virtual for the next month.” 

Some students were divided on whether to continue online classes. “I think the one week of online class was enough,” said John Assad ‘25. “We were already going to Lowry and gathering with our masks off to eat, why not have in-person classes with our masks on?” 

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Chloe Burdette

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