Updates on COVID-19 mask policy

On Wednesday, April 20, the Washington College Contingency Planning Group announced via email that the campus will be transitioning back to being mask-optional effective immediately.

According to the email, the change was made based on recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deeming Kent County as having a low community transmission rate; overall CDC guidance regarding masking in these same areas; and the decrease in the total number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus since the reinstatement of the mask mandate on April 1.

As of April 20, the CPG reported that, after “reaching a high of 23 active COVID-19 cases” two weeks prior — “as well as a 50% occupancy of [WC’s] isolation dorm” — there is currently one positive COVID-19 student and employee case on campus, with one student in isolation.

However, despite the decrease in on-campus cases, the CPG strongly recommends that all students, staff, and faculty members continue to wear masks in all indoor public spaces. Such situations include if individuals are “experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms at all, even if mild” — including a runny nose, constant sneezing, congestion or sinus pressure, and a high fever — if they had “a close contact exposure to someone who tested positive” for COVID-19; if they are “unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” including the booster shot; or they have “underlying health concerns” that will increase one’s personal risk factors, according to the email.

Additionally, the CPG strongly encourages members of the campus community to continue taking significant steps to ensure one’s and others’ safety for the remainder of the 2022 spring semester, especially as the College “get[s] closer to some important end-of-the-academic-year events,” including the 2022 commencement. This includes “limit[ing] any indoor activities” if one is unable to practice social distancing; avoid attending post-Birthday Ball indoor gatherings where individuals may be “in close contact with a wider variety of social groups on campus”; and to not share any cups or drinks with others, according to the email.

Face masks will continue to be a requirement for individuals visiting Health Services or the Counseling Center, or who are scheduled to get tested for COVID-19.

Lastly, according to the email, as the CPG reminds the College community that, as with the previous updated policy, this reinstituted setting remains “wholly contingent upon [WC’s] current low status for community transmission,” and depends on the total number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus and “the total occupancy of the isolation room.” Should any of these conditions change or if further guidance from local or statewide health officials state otherwise, the College will then “shift back to an indoor mask mandate.”

As the semester comes to an end, the College prompts all campus community members to continue respecting one another’s decision regarding wearing masks.

“Wearing a face mask is always an option and will remain so,” the email said. “As a community, we should be sensitive to the fact that some classmates and colleagues will prefer to continue to wear a mask indoors and be supportive and respectful of that decision.”

“N95 and KN95 masks have been proven to be effective in safeguarding the wearer, even when others around them are unmasked,” the email said. “On the flip side, feeling comfortable with not wearing a mask indoors is also a choice that is to be respected.”

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