Nov. 20 COVID-19 Testing and the End of the Semester
Dear Merrimack College Community -
We write today to provide an update on our ongoing efforts to mitigate COVID-19 on campus.
Yesterday, the Broad Institute had a technical issue with their COVID-19 surveillance testing system, and on Tuesday the Massachusetts Department of Public Health asked that colleges and universities provide increased testing for students leaving campus for Thanksgiving. These two events have resulted in unprecedented demand and delays in receiving test results back from the Broad Institute. This continues to be the case today, and will be through the weekend and into next week. The delay does not impact the accuracy of test results, but it does greater inhibit the College’s ability to identify positive cases quickly and isolate and quarantine students to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Our success in keeping the campus safe has been predicated on our commitment to quick and extensive surveillance testing for every member of our community who comes to campus. This unfortunate delay, combined with an increase of cases throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as amongst our commuter students and employees, has led the College to alter the last 3 days of on-campus classes. The College is implementing the following policies to protect members of our community, and to the best of our ability, minimize the spread of the virus any further within our community:
- If you are a residential student and your last test was Tuesday, November 17, or earlier, you should get tested today, Friday, November 20. To accommodate this change the COVID-19 Testing Center will remain open until 8 p.m. this evening.
- The campus remains open, residence halls remain open, and food service remains open until Wednesday, November 25, 2020, at 5 p.m.
- The College recommends and encourages campus-based faculty who plan to teach in person on Monday, November 23 - Wednesday, November 25 to teach remotely at their discretion. We understand that many on-campus courses have end of semester projects for students to complete. We do not want to interrupt student course completion or success if a faculty member wishes to maintain their on-campus modality, as long as they account for students who will need to access their class remotely.
- It is very important given the fluidity of the situation that faculty and students communicate clearly with each other and to be understanding. We ask faculty to clearly communicate any modality changes or course requirement adjustments with their students, as well as to be understanding and flexible with students whose plans for next week may be changing. We also ask students to communicate any concerns that they have with their instructors.
- Understanding that many classes may move to remote formats due to the reasons stated above, students who planned to leave the campus between Monday, November 23 - Wednesday, November 25 should consider leaving campus this weekend. If you decide to go home early you should get a test before you leave today or Monday and await your test result at home.
- Governor Baker and Merrimack strongly advise that all residential students receive a COVID-19 test 72-hours before moving off-campus. This means that students who move out today or this weekend should get tested today. Those that can not move out this weekend and intend to move out early next week (Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday) should get tested today and on Monday, November 23. If you decide to go home early you should get a test before you leave today or Monday, and await your test result at home. Again, to accommodate this change the COVID-19 Testing Center will remain open until 8 p.m. this evening.
- As a reminder, residential halls close for the semester at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25, 2020. Students should notify Residential Life and inform them of your plans to leave for the rest of the semester. If students change their travel plans to leave early, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your change.
- As planned, Fall 2020 semester finals are remote beginning November 30, 2020, through December 4, 2020. The Fall 2020 semester ends at midnight on December 4, 2020.
- In an effort to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus, the College is going to further enhance the state’s policy on being at your residence hall from 10 p.m. - 5 a.m. (unless working, getting food or a medical issue). Beginning today, students will only be allowed to be in their residential units with their roommates. This means no visitors will be allowed in units from the same residential hall for the remainder of the semester. This goes for all Merrimack housing unit sizes, both on campus and at Royal Crest. This new policy goes into effect at 1 p.m. today.
As a reminder, the last day the COVID-19 Testing Center will be open before the Thanksgiving holiday is Monday, November 23. Please note, testing hours for Monday are between the hours of 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Students who plan to depart campus between Monday - Wednesday of next week should get tested on Monday, even if they tested today.
Based on the current slow down in processing tests, and a significant increase in the number of tests that will take place this weekend and into early next week, a Monday test may not be processed until Wednesday, November 25, 2020, or later. Please plan your departure accordingly.
By all accounts and through working together, we have done an outstanding job keeping Merrimack College safe. However, as is the nature of this virus, the world is changing rapidly and we must continue to do our part to be vigilant and finish this semester as strong and as safely as we began it.
Thank you for continuing to do your part.
Christoper E. Hopey, Ph.D.