Jan. 10: Welcome Back: Campus Opening Information for Faculty and Staff
Dear Colleagues -
Happy New Year. We hope that you had a pleasant holiday season and hope that you were able to enjoy your time away and feel invigorated for the semester ahead. While it has been a long, often trying time for all of us, the success we have built together and the roll-out of a vaccine leads us to see better days ahead. We are also looking forward to welcoming our faculty and staff back to campus starting tomorrow as campus reopens Monday, January 11. As we begin to welcome employees back to campus we would like to take this opportunity to share the following information that will help prepare you for your return.
First and foremost, we would like to thank the essential personnel who continued to work hard over the winter break in order to maintain services for Merrimack’s students, faculty and staff. Offices such as Admission, Financial Aid, Bursar, Payroll, Facilities, the Task Force, Athletics, Residence Life, the Testing Center staff and MCPD were instrumental in continuing our momentum during these past several weeks and we offer our collective gratitude for their hard work and dedication. It is because of their efforts that we will be returning to a safe and prepared campus for the Spring 2021 semester.
As announced in the fall, the campus will be reopening for the Spring semester on Monday, January 11. The Spring 2021 semester, which is scheduled to start classes on February 1, will be as successful as the fall if we collectively take personal responsibility for ourselves and look out for one another. Based on the success we had as a caring community this past fall, we are looking forward to having our students, faculty and staff back on campus for the spring. Additionally, we are excited to see many employees come back to the campus having worked remotely for the fall.
As numbers of COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise across the country, and in the Commonwealth, the Governor has instituted new temporary guidelines regarding the capacity of spaces across the state in an effort to limit the continued spread of the virus. While we do not believe these guidelines will restrict our approach to the use of the campus for the spring, we do recognize that for the immediate time period between January 11 and January 22 those employees who can perform their jobs remotely should communicate with their direct supervisor to discuss the possibility of remote work for the next two weeks. Our effort to minimize the number of employees on campus does not eliminate the important work that needs to be done to prepare for the semester ahead. Employees who were scheduled to return on January 11 must receive permission from their direct supervisors to engage in remote work during this two week period. Those employees who have already made arrangements through Human Resources for remote work during the spring do not need to seek further permission.
As you know, the Fall semester experience significantly shaped our planning for the Spring semester. Merrimack College will continue to follow the same internal processes such as wearing a face-covering on campus at all times, maintaining social distancing of six feet apart or more, handwashing and additional cleaning and disinfecting. We will continue to monitor our internal processes to meet the public health needs of our community as the conditions of the pandemic continue to evolve. As a reminder, if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, do not return to the campus. Call your medical provider and notify the College to report symptoms. Employees should contact Human Resources or call (978) 837-5157 to inform the College of their symptoms.
Keeping everyone on campus safe is our top priority. And that starts with all of us taking responsibility for our own health, and doing what is necessary to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading on campus.
This can be achieved if we all do three things. First, as we did in the fall, starting Monday morning employees should monitor their health. Beginning on Monday, January 11 all employees should begin to use the CoVerified App to monitor and report symptoms. Should you have symptoms please do not come to work. Instead, notify your health provider and the College by contacting either Human Resources or call (978) 837-5157.
Please be aware that most employees’ CoVerified app will display a ‘Restricted’ access. This restriction status will not prevent you from getting onto the campus beginning next week and for the next two weeks. Once all employees reenter the testing protocol and receive negative test results, ‘Restricted’ access will be changed to a ‘Cleared’ status. If you are restricted from coming to campus because you are isolating or quarantining please do not come to campus until you have been cleared to do so.
Second, all employees should follow all College COVID-19 protocols regarding wearing face coverings, social distancing and maintaining good personal hygiene. Additionally, the College will continue to restrict guests to the campus that are not approved. This includes food delivery. As a result, the College will have lunch options for employees starting Monday, January 11 at Sparky’s. For assistance with other visitors to campus please contact the Task Force.
Third, all employees who plan to return to campus next week must enter Merrimack’s COVID-19 surveillance testing protocol. Those employees who have in the past tested positive (both through Merrimack’s surveillance testing protocol or outside testing sites) will be contacted by Hamel Health as to when to enter the testing protocol. Employees who have tested positive outside of the Merrimack testing protocol, per guidelines from the Commonwealth, and have not notified the College, should alert the Office of Human Resources or call (978) 837-5157. In light of the fact that many employees have been out of the testing protocol for a few weeks due to the winter break, it is important to notify the College should something have changed in your health over the break.
Unless informed otherwise by the College, employees who are planning to return to work on the campus next week should get tested on their first day back to the campus. Over the next two weeks, the COVID-19 Testing Center will be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. This means an employee’s first day back should coincide with a day of the week that the COVID-19 Testing Center is open. Faculty and staff should feel free to get tested more than once for the first three weeks.
Beginning Monday, January 25 the COVID-19 Testing Center will be open five days a week and have expanded hours. On Monday, January 25 and Tuesday, January 26 the Testing Center hours will be 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. and on January 27, 28 and 29 the Testing Center will be open from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. The expansion of Testing Center hours corresponds with the return of students to campus. In light of the transition of employees returning to work on campus, we recommend that each employee working on campus get tested twice a week during the weeks of January 11, 18 and 25.
Beginning on February 1, all employees working on campus will be required to begin twice a week testing, and the Testing Center will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Also beginning that week the Testing Center will hold walk-in hours on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. More information about twice a week testing and sign up times will be shared in the coming week.
Those employees who will continue to work remotely (with authorization from their direct supervisor through Friday, January 22), but wish to get a test may come and get a test on the days the testing center is open (M, W, F from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.) and then return home. For those employees who will be returning to the campus this spring but were fully remote in the fall, please contact the Task Force for specific instructions as to how to enroll in the testing protocol before arriving on campus.
As a reminder, in conjunction with testing, the College runs a very sophisticated contact tracing program in partnership with our local municipalities. Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted for information about potential exposure others on campus may have had. The success of this program is dependent on members of our community being open about who they may have come in contact with. It is of the utmost importance that should you test positive you work with our contact tracing team to help them limit campus exposure. Our quick response to identify and quarantine members of our community who were exposed to a positive case worked well in stemming the spread of COVID-19 on campus in the fall.
As we all know, there has been much discussion and planning as it relates to COVID-19 vaccinations. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has prioritized groups to be vaccinated through a phased delivery approach prioritizing first responders and COVID-19 outward-facing medical personnel. Next in this phased approach to be vaccinated is the at-risk population, with the general population following. Merrimack College is working with the Commonwealth in an effort to become a COVID-19 vaccination center and will follow the state’s predetermined phased delivery of vaccinations. We will update the campus community regarding vaccinations as more information becomes available.
In the meantime, beginning the week of January 11, members of the Merrimack community who are eligible under the state’s phased approach will be vaccinated. At this time this includes Testing Center personnel, medical staff and the MCPD. As the state moves beyond this first phase of vaccinations, the College will provide more information regarding subsequent phases and the potential a vaccination center could be on campus.
At this time the state is recommending that all vaccinated individuals continue to follow COVID-19 protocols regarding face coverings, social distancing, getting tested and following existing quarantine rules should they be identified as a close contact of a positive case. As a result, at this time the College will not alter its current policies for those members of the community who have been vaccinated.
Key Upcoming Dates
Finally, we would like to remind you of important dates over the next several weeks to help in your return to the campus:
Monday, January 11 - Campus Opens
Monday, January 18 - Spring Session I begins
Friday, January 22 - Move-in begins for Resident Life Staff
Monday, January 25 - Expanded Testing Center hours
Wednesday, January 27 - Student move-in begins
Thursday, January 27 - New Student Orientation begins
Saturday and Sunday, January 30-31 - Baseline testing for commuters and graduate students
Monday, February 1 - Twice a week testing begins, Spring Semester Classes begin
Tuesday, February 9 - Last day for adding or dropping courses
Tuesday, February 9 - Last day for the conversion of “N” grades for Fall 2020
Monday, February 15 - Last day to drop classes and leave housing (with refund)
Additionally, the Athletic Department will continue to host basketball and ice hockey games over the next few weeks as it has successfully over this winter break. Athletics has followed strict testing and operational protocols to ensure the safety of all participants. All activities will continue to adhere to or exceed all NEC, Hockey East, NCAA, CDC and MA guidelines as they provide meaningful experiences for our students and campus. At this time, spectators are not permitted at any athletic contests. All games will be streamed live and at no cost with links at www.merrimackathletics.com. As schedules are subject to change, please check the athletics website for the most current updates.
Ten months ago, we could have never imagined we would still be combatting the COVID-19 virus in January 2021. Although the virus still remains, there is much hope that returning to a new place normalcy is close, and we thank the entire community for your strength and conviction to weather this storm. You have continued to persevere during some of the most challenging of times, and we are eternally grateful for that. Each of you are a valued member of this community, and we are looking forward to your presence and contributions to another successful semester at Merrimack College.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Jeffrey Doggett Ed.D.
Executive Vice President, Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Sean Condon Ph.D.