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Returning to campus - testing and other updates

December 30, 2021

This message was sent to WPI employees:

I hope you’ve each been able to enjoy some down time, and time with family and friends over the holidays. Apologies for interrupting that break, but I wanted to share some important information related to our campus operations in the coming weeks as we respond to the Omicron variant. 

As we head into 2022, we are dealing with a very different situation than prior phases of the pandemic, and we will again need to adjust our approaches to prioritize the mental and physical health of our community while enabling our students to advance their educational goals. Flexibility and following the science have been key to our successful response to date, and we will continue to embrace this as we move forward.

While Omicron is much more contagious, it generally causes milder symptoms among vaccinated people. Fortunately, WPI is in a great position with a very high vaccination rate among students, faculty, and staff, and a booster requirement going into effect shortly.

You should know that we are expecting and preparing for a large number of mild infections—a peak that will likely last a few weeks but with numbers of infections larger than any we’ve previously seen.

Our Plan for January

We plan to bring students back as scheduled and begin classes as scheduled, with added safety measures in place. We will share detailed information for employees and students in a message to go out Monday. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few important near-term items with you all:

  • As we have done in the past, we ask employees to get a negative test result in Harrington before returning to in-person work on campus. This likely means many of you should plan to work remotely over at least the beginning of the coming week, coming to campus initially only to get your test, and then working from home until you have the negative result. Those who must return to work in person on Monday January 3 should get a test that day. Please double check with your supervisor for your remote work options in the near term. Flexibility while serving our students—and supporting each other—is key as we come back from break.
  • We will be moving to twice per week testing for everyone, at least for the month of January, so please plan accordingly.
  • If you tested positive for COVID over the break, please do not go to Harrington for testing. Rather, you should report this through the symptom tracker and do not come to campus until your isolation period is over. If you are still within your isolation period or if you are caring for a loved one with COVID and need to stay off campus let your supervisor know that you will need to be remote (no need to discuss personal details). 
  • If you are eligible and haven’t yet received your booster, please do so immediately – even before our January 18 deadline.  And once you do, please upload your information into Workday. For more details, please review the content from the December 20 message from Talent & Inclusion. 

More Details Coming Monday – Here’s A Preview

  • In Monday’s message, we will ask students to have a negative test as close as possible to their return date (24-72 hours), and to have two negative tests on campus before going to class or other in-person activities.
  • Faculty will have flexibility in delivery method in classes (remote or in-person) for the first two weeks of the term/semester, and we will ask them to prepare for having larger than normal numbers of students who are unable to attend class in person for short periods of time.
  • Finally, given recent changes in CDC guidance and the large number of Omicron cases we are likely to have, we will be updating our protocols for case management and contact tracing, with more automated responses and online guidance.

Again, more details will be provided by email on Monday, and we will have an employee virtual town hall on Thursday, January 6 at 2 PM – watch WPI Today for the link. We will also hold a town hall for students and families next week.

As we head into this latest phase of our COVID response, kindness and understanding with ourselves and each other will be essential.  As always, we will come through together and with the well-being of our community as our guiding light.  

Thanks, as always, for everything you do for WPI, for our students, and for one another.