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Immediate Lifting of Most Pandemic-Related Restrictions

DEPARTMENT(S): 
January 26, 2022

This message was sent to the WPI Community.

As you know, we’ve been steadily working towards a return to pre-COVID operations across our campus. For example, all classes, with a few exceptions, were in-person today—it was wonderful to see everyone! We have carefully tracked campus and regional health trends and have continued to base our decisions on data and our own campus needs as we support our educational and research mission, as well as center on the well-being of our students.

Thanks to your efforts in pulling together to manage the Omicron variant, we are seeing a significant decrease in positive case rates. As expected, most cases are mild, and symptoms are manageable. Therefore, and with the concurrence of CERT, I am grateful to report that effective immediately, most pandemic-related restrictions are being lifted, as detailed below.

I do want to remind everyone in our community that our guiding principle of respect and care for one another remains unchanged. Many on our campus have concerns about COVID and will continue to use personal protective equipment like masks and many faculty and staff have small children at home who may be at risk for illness. I ask that you respect others’ needs and choices and that you continue to be thoughtful, careful, and cautious.

Masks/Face Coverings Are Optional In Residence Halls

Masks are now optional for residential students in their rooms and common areas.

  • Be respectful of others in shared spaces: speak with roommates, suitemates, guests, and others about their comfort level—and yours—regarding wearing or not wearing masks. Please do not question or judge someone else’s preference. Be respectful if asked to wear a mask and maintain physical distance. 
  • Staff entering residence halls will still wear masks.
  • Remember you can always remove your mask when you’re outdoors.

Because the City of Worcester mandates that individuals wear face coverings in indoor shared spaces, we must still require the use of masks in other WPI buildings. As a reminder, we have returned to the “optional unmasked speaker” practice:

  • When public speaking at an organized campus activity, where all others present are masked, and at least 6-feet of distancing of the speaker from attendees is maintained, a fully vaccinated speaker may, at their option, lower or remove their mask while actively speaking.
  • When masking, we still ask that you utilize high quality masks rather than cloth masks.
  • When Worcester rescinds its mask mandate, we will be ready to reconsider required masking in our non-residential campus spaces and assess the risks and benefits of changing our policy.

External Guests Welcome to Visit Residence Halls

  • Residential students may have guests (including overnight guests) in their residence halls; follow typical policies.
    • Yes, this means that your parents, siblings, partner, friends, etc., can visit you in your residence hall!

Testing

Our testing protocol will continue for the time being: everyone on campus will continue to test twice per week. We plan to revisit this as on-campus COVID rates allow.  Currently, the City of Worcester is still seeing case rates as high as 20 percent, and we need to continue to protect our campus community as we ease our own restrictions.

WPI Community Events Can Be Hosted and Planned
All programs and spaces can operate at full capacity; attendees must comply with masking requirements

  • Food and beverages are allowed; use common sense around protocols, such as distancing when eating and drinking
  • Student clubs are encouraged to hold in-person events; follow usual guidelines
  • Fraternities and sororities may host formal/social gatherings; 1-3 guests per member (based on occupancy parameters)
  • External guests (speaker, colleagues, friends, families, etc.) must continue to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of event or proof of negative rapid antigen test within 24 hours prior.

The university will prioritize space and other resources for the internal community; external events (symposia, non-WPI athletic competitions, weddings, etc.) will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Events Office based on the university’s ability to support them with available staffing resources.

Resuming Overnight Student Organization Travel

  • The only remaining restriction is that each person is required to have their own bed in a room; we recognize that it can save money to bunk up, but requiring separate beds reduces the number of people sharing one room and helps decrease the chance of someone testing positive later.

Residential Students Who Test Positive Will be Housed in the WPI Townhouses During Isolation

  • Now that we have fewer positive cases on campus, we are reverting to housing and caring for all COVID-19 positive on-campus students in the WPI Townhouses
  • This mitigates the spread of virus and lessens disruption to roommates and others. This approach helps enable lifting of the mask mandate in residence halls (see above).
  • Students who test positive should complete the My Case Form, which will inform further instructions and type of outreach from the Health Team.

I want to emphasize that with these changes, essentially everything at WPI returns to pre-COVID operations, except for the city-mandated masking, testing to ensure we are aware of how these changes impact our community, and following CDC guidance about isolation of residential students who test positive. It is our intent that masking and testing will transition to being optional in the coming weeks and months, but for now we ask that everyone continues to follow these two important safety protocols.

There is hope as we move forward together that we are getting back to normal and will be able to better make connections, have fun, and enjoy an enriching learning, working, and living experience. Please take advantage of these protocols to connect with one another. Building community just got easier – let’s all lean into that!

With gratitude,

Laurie