By Erica Quinones
After weeks of reduced operations, Washington College entered green alert on March 2, opening communal spaces across campus, according to an email from the WC Response Team.
According to WC’s COVID Dashboard webpage, a green alert means the campus’ COVID-19 rates are stable, community members are observing health and safety protocols, and basic COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines remain in place.
WC’s alert system is controlled by 10 factors, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Sarah Feyerherm, including students in quarantine and isolation, Kent County’s positivity rate, and testing turnaround time.
Each factor is given a corresponding green, yellow, orange, or red alert level. Those ratings are then averaged out to find WC’s overall alert.
While some factors, such as testing turnaround, are still yellow, Dr. Feyerherm said that Kent County’s decreasing positivity rates and the campus’ 0% COVID-19 positivity rate were major influences on moving WC to green alert.
After the Chester Hall outbreak ended on Feb. 26, WC’s positivity rate dropped to 0% with no students testing positive for COVID-19 during the weeks of Feb. 22 or March 1.
The move to green alert releases some restrictions as outdoor gatherings of 10 people or less are now approved and lounges in residence halls are open with reduced capacity, according to the March 2 Response Team email.
In addition to the lifted restrictions, the College also installed outdoor meeting spaces for students in the form of three tents.
The three tents, located on the Hodson Green, the parking lot between Queen Anne’s Hall and Minta Martin Hall, and the patio by the River dorms, will be available for students to use casually or reserve for meetings.
Each tent is outfitted with lighting, Wi-Fi, electricity ports, and will contain tables and chairs for seating, according to a Feb. 26 email from the Response Team.
According to Dr. Feyerherm, there is some concern regarding the tents becoming loud at night.
She said if this fear becomes a reality, the tents will be restricted under similar rules as quiet hours.
The tents will lack a full-time moderator; however, Dr. Feyerherm said that part of opening the tents to students is trusting them to report concerns regarding the tents to Public Safety.
Dr. Feyerherm said that as the Response Team watches the COVID-19 situation on campus, other changes may occur across campus, including increasing indoor seating in the Dining Hall or opening the Toll Science Center atrium.
However, the increased freedoms do not mean the campus is safe from more COVID-19 outbreaks.
According to Dr. Feyerherm, the green alert is precocious and can change from one or two factors. So, students should continue following COVID-19 restrictions, including social distancing and mask wearing across campus.
If the alert does turn yellow again, that does not guarantee the newfound privileges will be revoked.
The Response Team will make decisions on what to change based on why the alert turned yellow, according to Dr. Feyerherm. If the shift was caused by rising COVID-19 rates in Kent County, then the campus may continue allowing outdoor gatherings of 10 people or less.
While WC’s continued green alert status is not certain, Dr. Feyerherm said students “should not underestimate the peace of mind that comes with green alert.”