Jan. 14 Spring Semester COVID-19 Update

Dear Faculty and Staff,

As we prepare for the beginning of classes, we are still seeing high levels of spread for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in our local community. We anticipate that we will see a larger than normal number of positive cases in The Claremont Colleges community over the next several weeks given the contagiousness of this variant. This will impact everyone in our community in different ways.

We have had tremendous success thus far working together to follow the appropriate public health guidance and to extend patience and grace to each other during these challenging times. This has never been more important than it will be over the next several weeks as we return to campus for in-person instruction.

We must redouble our efforts toward our goals to protect our community while also ensuring the same level of high-quality education we have provided our students throughout the pandemic. Even though the five undergraduate colleges have announced plans to offer an online start to the semester for two weeks, we remain committed to transitioning to in-person instruction once our testing and notification protocols are revised and we resume regular surveillance testing.

We have received a number of questions from members of the Harvey Mudd College community about various aspects of our campus reopening. In this email, we are providing some reminders and updates on key topics and questions you have raised.

COVID-19 Testing and Notification

  • Student Health Services (SHS) and The Claremont Colleges Services (TCCS) are adjusting plans for contact tracing given the anticipated volume of positive cases. We will update you as soon as we know more about their revised processes.
  • There has been a lag between contact tracers in Human Resources getting notification of positive test results from SHS and when notification messages are being sent to employees who test positive. We ask that you continue to notify Human Resources if you test positive.
  • There also have been delays in getting updates from SHS/TCCS to the COVID-19 dashboard, mostly due to the holiday break. We appreciate your patience as SHS manages the high volume of testing and contact tracing required to reopen our campuses in the coming weeks. We will continue emailing our community when positive cases occur, but we will no longer post copies of these announcements on the COVID-19 announcements web page. Instead, we ask that you refer to the email notifications of positive cases and/or the online dashboard instead.
  • While not requiring faculty and staff to receive a negative test before returning to campus to work, we strongly encourage that you do so.
  • Given the lack of testing availability in the community, we strongly encourage all faculty and staff who have not already done so to complete the consent forms so that you may be tested on campus through our SHS testing program. It will take 24-48 hours to process your request, and you are not able to be tested by SHS until after this time. If you have already completed the forms, there is no need to submit them again.
  • Beginning next Wednesday, SHS will have the capacity to conduct antigen testing at Tranquada. Antigen testing will be used in helping expedite employees returning to work and students returning to class after they test positive or are exposed. You will need to make an appointment with SHS and go to Tranquada to get an antigen test.
  • Faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated with a booster and asymptomatic may choose to be tested up to two times a week.Given the level of community spread, if you learn you have been exposed, we encourage you to come to campus to get tested and then to return home, whether or not you are symptomatic. Please also remember to notify your department chair or direct supervisor so that you may follow the guidance for isolation/quarantine.

Isolation/Quarantine Requirements

Students

We have limited isolation space available for students who test positive. We anticipate that once space is exhausted, we will need students and their roommates/suitemates to remain in their residence hall rooms/suites where DSA staff will be able to check on them and deliver meals. Students will receive a message from Dean Marco outlining isolation/quarantine expectations.

Faculty/Staff

Recent guidance on isolation and quarantine procedures for employees has changed. A summary of the current requirements is provided below. However, guidance continues to evolve. The Office of Human Resources (HR) is keeping up with the changes and will provide the employee and supervisor with the date on which the employee can return to work based on specific facts and circumstances and then applicable public health orders and recommendations. Questions about these procedures should be directed to Human Resources.

Vaccinated Employees Who are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19

Employees who are boosted, or fully vaccinated and not yet booster-eligible, who have had close contact (within six feet for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with a person with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, but do not have symptoms, can continue to work on campus, provided that for 10 days following exposure they self-monitor for symptoms, wear a well-fitting medical grade mask around others, and consider testing immediately, especially if the employee or anyone living with the employee is at increased risk for severe illness.

Unvaccinated Employees Who are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19

Employees who are not fully vaccinated, or vaccinated and booster eligible but have not yet received their booster dose, who have had close contact with a person with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, are required to self-quarantine (stay at home and separate themselves from others). In the absence of symptoms, such persons can return to campus 10 days after their last contact with the infected person OR after day five with a negative antigen test (specimen collected on/after day five from the last exposure). Upon return to campus, such persons must continue to monitor their health and follow precautions (wearing a well-fitting medical-grade mask around others, hand washing, avoiding crowds, and staying at least six feet from others) for a total of 10 days.

Employees Regardless of Vaccination Status Who are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19

Employees who had close contact and have developed symptoms within 14 days of the close contact, must self-quarantine and remain away from campus subject to the following: Quarantine can end after day five ONLY if all of the following criteria are met: a) the employee has a negative COVID-19 test using an antigen test based on a sample that was collected on day five or later and; b) the employee has not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine and; c) the employee’s symptoms are improving. Alternatively, isolation can end after day 10 if both of these criteria are met: a) the employee has not had a fever for at least 24 hours and b) the employee’s symptoms are improving.

Employees Who Test Positive For COVID-19

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 regardless of their vaccination status or previous infection or lack of symptoms must self-isolate and remain away from campus for at least five days. Isolation can end and employees can return to campus after day five if symptoms are not present or are resolving, with a negative antigen test (specimen collected on/after day five from the last exposure). If unable to test or choosing not to test, and symptoms are not present or are resolving, isolation can end and the employee may return to campus after day 10. If fever is present, isolation must continue and the employee may not return to campus until the fever resolves without the use of fever reducing medicine. If symptoms, other than fever, are not resolving, employees must continue to isolate until symptoms are resolving or until after day 10 from the date of the positive test. Such persons must continue to wear a well-fitting medical-grade mask around others for a total of 10 days after the positive test.

Guidance on Face Coverings

  • All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face covering/mask while indoors, unless an exception applies.
  • Cloth masks are no longer acceptable at HMC. Based on LACDPH, federal, state and local guidance, only well-fitting 1) medical grade masks, 2) surgical masks, 3) medical procedure masks, or 4) higher-level respirators (N95, KN95, and KF94) will be permitted by HMC. The face covering/mask must not have any visible holes or openings and must cover the nose and mouth.
  • Faculty and staff may obtain a suitable disposable mask/respirator by contacting facilities@g.hmc.edu. Students may contact dean_of_students@g.hmc.edu. We have ordered an additional supply of masks so that we can ensure everyone has access to appropriate masks for the duration of the spring semester.
  • Given how contagious the Omicron variant is and given the number of people we anticipate will be eating and drinking outside, we strongly recommend outdoor masking for everyone when outside on campus.

The Academic Program/Return to Campus

We expect all students to be back on campus by Jan. 23 in advance of the start of in-person instruction. Students who are unable to do so will need to reach out to the Dean of Students office and to the Office of Academic Resources and Student Success to request special permission to be exempt from this requirement. There will be no in-person academic instruction at the start of the semester: no courses may require in-person attendance or schedule in-person activities before classes are broadly permitted to be conducted in person. Office hours must be conducted remotely. The only exceptions will be for senior students involved in capstone experiences. Thesis students whose work requires it may access laboratories subject to all existing health protocols. Clinic students may gather outside for meetings. The makerspace, studios and shops will be closed to all students until in-person classes begin.

Outdoor classrooms will be available to supplement regular classroom assignments once in-person instruction begins.

We are asking that all local travel and field trips be postponed or canceled until after Feb. 1.

Campus Events

We have canceled or rescheduled a number of events through the first week of February including Family Weekend, the Feb. 14 scheduled Blood Drive and the Tesla in-person recruiting event scheduled for Feb. 2. We are asking that no large in-person extracurricular events (involving more than 10 people) be scheduled until after mid-February.

Admission tours are discontinued through the end of January. When tours resume, we will be limiting the size of tour groups, requiring that visitors complete symptom screening and requiring that they wear approved masks/face coverings.

Dining Options

Given staffing levels, we anticipate that we will need to close Jay’s Place for the first week or two of the semester while students are in modified quarantine. Students will still be able to access The Café and The Hoch for grab-and-go meals. Staff and faculty will be able to pick up food from The Café.

Continuity of Service and Remote Work

We anticipate we will face a number of challenges as more staff and faculty test positive or are exposed to COVID-19 and need to isolate/quarantine. It is critically important that we remain able to fulfill the mission of the College, and we anticipate there will be times when staff and faculty members may be asked to help in other classes or departments because of illness. We greatly appreciate your flexibility and willingness to help during these extraordinary times.

In a message to faculty and staff Jan. 2, we asked that staff who could work remotely continue to do so through Jan. 17. As part of that announcement, we temporarily suspended the requirement that employees work on campus at least one day each week. We are extending the suspension of that requirement—provided your area vice president approves—until Jan. 31.

Social Guidelines for Students

Dean Marco has been working with the Student COVID-19 Advisory Board to develop revised social guidelines for student activities for the spring semester. A copy of his message to students follows at the end of this message for your reference.

We thank you for your patience as we continue to navigate this latest situation. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Human Resources or any member of the President’s Cabinet.

Sincerely,

The President’s Cabinet

Maria Klawe, President
Karen Angemi, Director of the President’s Office and Secretary to the Board of Trustees
Thyra Briggs, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid
Andrew Dorantes, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer
Timothy Hussey, Chief Communications Officer and Assistant Secretary to the Board
Hieu Nguyen, Vice President for Advancement
Lisa Sullivan, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty
Marco Antonio Valenzuela, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Joseph Vaughan, Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Computing and Information Services

Message from Dean Marco to all students sent Jan. 14

Hello Mudders,

As we prepare for the beginning of classes, we are still experiencing high levels of positive COVID-19 tests from the Omicron variant in our local community. We anticipate that we will experience a larger number of positive cases in The Claremont Colleges community over the next several weeks given the contagiousness of this variant. This will impact everyone in our community in different ways.

We want to provide some important information about your return to campus:

Return By Jan. 23

All students are expected to be back on campus by Jan. 23 in advance of the start of in-person instruction. Additionally, we need to establish our baseline COVID-19 testing and protocols. This timeframe will enable us to better manage the rate of COVID-19 on our campus and minimize additional strain on our college community. Students who are unable to do so will need to reach out to the Dean of Students (dean_of_students@g.hmc.edu) office and to the Office of Academic Resources and Student Success to request special exemption from this requirement. Please reach out to academicdeans@g.hmc.edu with any academic questions or concerns.

Testing Positive Before Returning to Campus

If you test positive right before returning to campus, please stay home and complete your 10-day isolation there. Also, make sure to email dean_of_students@g.hmc.edu.

Testing Positive When On Campus

If you test positive on campus, make sure to notify the On Call Dean by calling Campus Safety at 909.607.2000.

Mask Requirements

In light of the contagious nature of the Omicron variant, public health authorities have underscored that effective masking is an important mitigation measure. As such, students, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a well-fitting medical-grade mask, surgical mask, or a medical procedure mask or respirator. Masks are not required indoors if you are actively eating or drinking or alone in a separate room or office.

Masking outdoors is strongly encouraged, unless actively eating or drinking, and is required in dorm courtyard spaces. A similar requirement applies to faculty, staff and approved visitors. 

Cloth masks will no longer be acceptable on campus. HMC will provide suitable masks (e.g. medical surgical/procedure masks or KN95 masks) for all students. You will be able to pick up masks from the ResLife Office on Sunday, Jan. 16, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Afterwards, you may get some from your Proctors and the DSA office.

Social Guidelines (these will go into effect starting today, Jan. 14, 2022)

The Student COVID-19 Advisory Board met and discussed the following social guidelines. Mudd students will be allowed to meet outdoors in small groups, under the requirements described below:

  • Gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people. Residence hall courtyards will be allowed to have a maximum of four groups of 10 at the same time while socially distanced. QR codes will be placed in the courtyard for students to scan. QR codes will be very important in order to aid with contact tracing.
  • Study groups (no larger than 10) and socializing will only be allowed outside; students must wear face masks, and no eating/drinking will be allowed in this setting.
    • There will be additional tables set up throughout campus for outdoor studying and gathering.
  • Violations of the gathering policy will result in disciplinary action.
  • Regulations for courtyard spaces:
    • Only 10 people maximum per group
    • Groups of 10 or less must maintain social distancing with other groups
    • Masks are required when not actively eating or drinking
    • No food or drink sharing
    • No bar openings
    • Gatherings must happen in designated areas only and using the QR codes
    • All people attending a gathering must scan into the courtyard via QR code
  • No registered events of any kind
    • No dorm meetings
    • No private parties
  • No gathering indoors including Platt, kitchens, classrooms and dorm lounges
  • No non-HMC guests (this includes 5C students)

Isolation Spaces

We have limited isolation space available for students who test positive and as a result we will be having students double up in isolation spaces. We anticipate that once space is exhausted, we will need students and their roommates/suitemates to remain in their residence hall rooms/suites where DSA staff will be able to check on them and deliver meals.

When students have to isolate in place, they will be asked to wear a medical grade mask in their space. Meals will be delivered (breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, beverages and snacks). If students are expecting important packages, we will work with them to get them delivered. We will also place cleaning supplies in community/suite bathrooms for students to use.

Suggested Items to Bring to Campus

Pack items you know will bring you comfort if you are sick: cold medicine, vitamin C supplements, Gatorade, etc.

Dining Services Updates

Given staffing levels, we anticipate that we will need to close Jay’s Place for the first two weeks of the semester. Students will still be able to access The Café (grab and go) and The Hoch (green box out).

COVID-19 Testing

SHS is working on moving towards a 5-day isolation that requires a negative antigen test on day six. SHS will have the capacity to conduct antigen testing at Tranquada soon. Antigen testing will be used in helping expedite students returning to class after they have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19. You will need to make an appointment with SHS and go to Tranquada to get an antigen test. More information on this will be provided early next week.

Student Employees

Student employees will only be permitted to resume work during the first weeks of the semester if they can do so remotely.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic. We are excited to welcome you back to Mudd this Spring and look forward to working together to keep our community members safe. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact DSA at dean_of_students@g.hmc.edu.

Best,

Dean Marco