Sept. 27: Important Campus Update
Dear Merrimack College Community,
We are writing to provide an important update as we continue to monitor the positive cases found in Monican Hall last week.
Although we have not seen any spread beyond the cluster at Monican, we have had an additional 12 isolated positive cases through Saturday amongst nearly 4,500 commuters, residential students and employees that were tested last week. Among these cases, there are three commuters, one employee and eight residential student positive cases. None of the additional positive cases appear, at this time, to be connected to the Monican cluster, and we continue to aggressively test and watch the Monican impact. Everyone who has tested positive this week is now in isolation and their direct contacts are now in quarantine.
The College’s quick and decisive action of shutting down Monican has been very successful to date in minimizing the spread from Monican on campus. But the significance of the decision and the impact on campus, most important being the very real and heightened increase in anxiety and concern across our students, faculty and staff about the coronavirus spreading quickly and silently, should not be minimized. As a community, we have been doing a lot to keep ourselves safe through testing and social distancing protocols, and for six weeks things have been going well. But even in our success, we must always be mindful of continuing our efforts. In retrospect, our success may have allowed us to also collectively let our guard down. Regardless of how we have gotten to this point, we must seize this moment to make changes and double down on our efforts.
Since Wednesday, and especially this weekend, many students have gone home, and many faculty have decided to move many of their classes temporarily to remote formats out of an abundance of caution, and we must acknowledge that we need to reestablish our collective sense of safety while maintaining our vigilance.
With this being the case – and given an uptick in overall numbers that cannot be connected to Monican – the decision has been made for the campus to shift temporarily to remote learning for the next five days from Monday, September 28, 2020 through Friday October 2, 2020, to protect our community and restore our sense of safety.
We expect in-person classes to resume on Monday, October 5, 2020. We are doing this out of an enormous abundance of caution. This is the wise and correct action and something we hoped we would not have to do, but planned for. The campus will remain open and operational, resident halls will be fully open (except for Monican), residential students can and should stay on campus, testing will be ramped up, food service will be fully operational and all students who are not in isolation or quarantine (commuters, residential and graduate students) who as of 3 p.m. Sunday, are off of the campus may return to campus anytime during the week, with enhanced protocols and policies which are outlined below.
What the Monican cluster has taught us is that COVID-19 is very complex and the impact can be swift and large. Although we planned extensively for a temporary move to remote learning, and a potential outbreak of a campus cluster, the mental health of students, faculty and staff, and its impact is very difficult to plan for. Regardless of how you are feeling, regardless of the emotions and your feelings of COVID-19, please know you are not alone. Our goal has been to make everyone feel safe, and going remote for the week, as we work to flush this virus from our campus, we hope will help ease the stress and concerns. This entire process has given the College the opportunity to think about how best to support the campus community in ways we never imagined before.
We completely understand the desire for students to leave the campus based on last week’s events, as well as the faculty’s decision to move classes to remote formats out of an abundance of caution. Due to the focus on caution and our desire to calm the anxiety, we want to summarize what decisions the College is implementing effective immediately:
1. Beginning tomorrow, Monday, September 28, 2020, Merrimack College will shift to remote learning across the campus through at least Friday, October 2. This will give the College the opportunity to take advantage of the week to continue collecting and evaluating test results.
2. As a result of shifting to remote learning, the following will be in place for students:
- Resident students who are currently on campus:
- Resident students who remained on the campus this weekend may remain on campus, but will engage in remote learning this week.
All resident students who are currently on campus must get tested on Monday, September 28 by 5 p.m., regardless of their regularly scheduled testing times.
Once tested, resident students are free to move about the campus, use campus facilities, and perform their campus jobs.
We are urging all resident students currently on the campus not to leave the campus.
Those who are normally scheduled for testing on Monday or Tuesday should get a second test on Wednesday or Thursday. All students who are normally scheduled for their test on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday should maintain their schedule in addition to the mandatory test on Monday, September 28. This means all students will receive two tests by the end of the week.
- Resident students who left for the weekend:
- Students who left for the week will engage in remote learning, and can do so from home or return to the campus.
- Students who left the campus this weekend must be tested upon their arrival back to campus. Upon completion of their test, students should quarantine in their rooms until the result of their test is known. This will mean quarantining for approximately 24 hours. This process will follow the same approach as move in.
- Because the testing center is not open on Sundays, students who left campus for the weekend should return no earlier than the morning of Monday, September 28.
- Students who left campus for the weekend and do not wish to return on Monday do not need to return to campus, but they do need to inform the Dean of Students Office of their plans for the week.
- For those students who are not on campus we remind you that you should still be following COVID-19 safety protocols. You should be wearing a face covering, continuing to social distance, maintain good hygiene and perform your daily symptom checking.
- Resident students who want to leave due to remote learning for the week:
For students who are on campus currently, and as a result of the remote learning decision for the week wish to go home, we ask that you take into consideration the impacts of that decision on yourselves and fellow students and opt to stay on campus.
If you choose to leave campus you must notify the Dean of Students of your plans. Students will have to follow a testing protocol similar to move in upon your return. You will be tested upon arrival to campus, and upon completion of your test you must quarantine in your rooms until the result of your test is known. This will mean quarantining for approximately 24 hours.
Commuter students can come to campus this week and will take their classes remotely.
Commuters should follow their regular testing schedule. Any commuter who wishes to take a second test can do so, we ask you do so at least two days before or after your scheduled test.
Commuter students who have jobs on campus will be able to continue this week.
- Graduate students:
Graduate students who are residents on the campus should follow the same housing guidance as above.
Graduate students who are commuters should also follow the commuter guidance above.
Graduate students who work on campus as in graduate assistantships should continue to work on campus and follow their testing schedule.
- Students in isolation/quarantine:
Students who are isolating/quarantining or are home as a result of our testing protocol (this includes all residents of Monican Hall) should maintain their current status as directed by the College. The decision to go remote will have no impact on their current course of action.
The College is working on a unique plan for each Monican resident to make sure their return to campus is safe and smooth. Each resident of Monican should expect a phone call or correspondence from the College on Wednesday, September 30.
3. All food venues will remain open for service and the College will remain fully operational. Any changes in food service will be communicated. Students who return to campus and need food service provided to them while quarantining while waiting for their test results will be notified as to how food will be delivered.
4. Faculty and staff:
Faculty and staff who are currently coming to campus may continue to do so. Even though all teaching will be remote, the College encourages any faculty who are normally teaching on-campus and staff who are currently coming to campus may continue to do so.
Even though all teaching will be remote, the College encourages any faculty who are normally teaching on-campus to be tested this week. The testing center will be open during normal hours (7 a.m. - 6 p.m. weekdays) and will accommodate walk-ins.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our students, faculty or staff, but this is something the College needs to do to continue to keep our entire community safe and confident. COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and our successful strategy has allowed our students to earn their education, have a residential experience if wanted and allowed for our employees to continue to work and provide for their families. Our investment in surveillance testing is how we quickly discovered COVID-19 within our community, and our commitment to each other and our patience with the protocols put in place will result in in-person classes resuming next Monday.
The College will be making further announcements to Monican Hall residents about testing and returning to campus and students should expect to hear from the College by Wednesday, September 30.
The College will also update the campus when more information is available.
If you have any questions please contact the Task Force or call 978-837-5599.
Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Doggett, Ed.D.
Executive Vice President
Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Sean Condon, Ph.D.