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Update on COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts

Dear Faculty and Staff Members,

Greetings at the start of a new academic year. I’m writing to update you about the College’s ongoing efforts to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our campus community. I realize that the convergence of the current increase in cases with the arrival of students and the start of the academic year has, for some, increased anxiety, and this message seeks to address many of your questions.  

We continue to face a dynamic set of circumstances. Informed by the latest science and guidance from authoritative sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our own medical and public health experts, the COVID-19 Planning Group and others have worked in earnest to update and create new safety measures and policies that are responsive to the latest conditions.

In all that we do, we will continue to follow the guiding principles we established at the beginning of this pandemic — holding paramount the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff members while delivering an engaging and intellectually enriching experience to our students.

Vaccination Rates

The science tells us that being fully vaccinated is the best protection against the effects of COVID-19. The vast majority of new cases caused by the delta variant occur in individuals who are not fully vaccinated. While we are seeing breakthrough cases across the country — instances of fully vaccinated individuals testing positive for COVID-19 — the number of fully vaccinated individuals who experience severe symptoms remains low.

As you know, we are requiring all students, faculty, and staff members to be fully vaccinated, unless they have a legitimate medical or religious exemption that has been approved by the College. I’m encouraged that our vaccination rates are extremely high and continue to climb.

At this point, more than 94% of our enrolled students are fully vaccinated. A number of returning students who were unable to get vaccinated prior to returning to campus have now begun the process of getting vaccinated; as a result, we expect that 99.5% of our student body will be fully vaccinated by mid-October. The remaining 0.5% of students have received a medical or religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Our employee vaccination rates are also high. As of Tuesday, Aug. 24, more than 91% of faculty and staff members are fully vaccinated. As is the case with our students, a number of employees are also in the midst of getting vaccinated, and fewer than 1% have requested medical or religious exemptions. We expect that more than 99% of our employees will be fully vaccinated by Sept. 17.

If you have not yet uploaded your CDC vaccination record card to MySwarthmore, or if you have begun the process of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 but have not informed Human Resources, please do so as soon as possible. You can contact Human Resources by emailing humanresources@swarthmore.edu.

Please keep in mind that you cannot require another individual to disclose their vaccination status to you; nor can you, as an individual, office, or department, exclude individuals from participating in College activities because of their vaccination status. Certain activities may require full vaccination in order to participate, but such decisions should be made by the COVID-19 Planning Group in consultation with appropriate colleagues, such as the staff in Student Health and Wellness or Human Resources. If you have questions about this, please email covid19@swarthmore.edu.

Human Resources is tracking the vaccination status of employees and communicating with supervisors and employees as necessary to ensure they comply with the College’s vaccine mandate.

Returning to Work on Campus

By now, the vast majority of employees who were previously working remotely due to the pandemic have returned to work on campus, either full time or in a hybrid capacity. Each office and department has worked diligently to put plans in place that enable us to support our return to a full, in-person, residential education while also allowing flexibility where possible; those plans were reviewed, discussed, and approved by the senior staff. 

While it’s important for us to have faculty and staff members back on campus, I’ve encouraged my senior staff colleagues to work with their teams to think creatively about what we’ve learned from the pandemic and how we might do things differently, especially as we experience an increase in cases in and around Delaware County. For instance, certain meetings may still be held remotely, or employees may refrain from having meetings during lunchtime when not everyone can be masked.

I also want to thank our colleagues who have been working fully or primarily on campus throughout the pandemic, ensuring that essential operations continue uninterrupted. I am grateful for your commitment to the College and our collective mission.  

Masking 

Masking is another proven way to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC, Delaware County and the surrounding areas are experiencing “high” transmission of COVID-19. In keeping with CDC recommendations, we are requiring all students, faculty, and staff members to remain masked while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The policy allows for several exceptions, including certain circumstances under which a fully vaccinated individual may remove their mask while speaking. Once transmission rates in the area fall, we will reevaluate this policy.

Masks are not required outdoors unless specifically noted.

Testing

At this time, we are not requiring employees who are fully vaccinated to undergo regular COVID-19 testing. However, we understand that some of you may prefer to test on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Given that, the College will provide Everlywell COVID-19 test kits to any current employee who wishes to take one. You can find complete information on how to obtain test kits, as well as instructions on how to perform the test, on the COVID-19 Faculty and Staff Testing page

The few employees who have either received a medical or religious exemption or who are not yet fully vaccinated must continue to conduct weekly COVID-19 testing. 

Positive Tests and Contact Tracing

Any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 — whether through a College-issued test kit or through an outside test — is required to notify the COVID-19 Employee Test Team (CETT) at CETT@swarthmore.edu and Terri Maguire in Human Resources at tmaguir1@swarthmore.edu. This will initiate the College’s contact-tracing protocols. If you are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the CETT team will contact you directly.

Full details on our employee quarantine and isolation protocols are available on the COVID-19 information page.

If you have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher or are experiencing other symptoms of COVID-19, you must not come to campus. Please refer to our COVID-19 employee quarantine and isolation information and follow the steps outlined in the policy. 

Visitors

As I mentioned, Delaware County and the surrounding areas are experiencing “high” transmission of COVID-19. As a result, we intend to restrict indoor access to most facilities to current students, faculty, and staff members until Sept. 20, at which point we expect virtually all of our students, facility, and staff members to be fully vaccinated. Please be sure to keep your OneCard on you at all times, as you may need it to access campus facilities, even during regular business hours. (On a related note, please also familiarize yourself with the College’s new Key and Access Management Policy.)

The campus grounds, including the Crum Woods, playing fields, and tennis courts, remain open to visitors. Please note that our target of Sept. 20 may change depending on the circumstances surrounding the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Delaware County and the neighboring areas.  

Vendors, Contractors, and Volunteer

Our academic and administrative operations are supported by a host of individuals who are not College employees but who serve our community in various ways. Some are paid vendors and contractors, others are volunteers, but each helps us carry out our mission. We are requiring these individuals to be fully vaccinated and follow our masking requirements in order to enter campus buildings. Though the College is not in the position to collect proof of vaccination from these individuals, we have developed a process that requires them to affirm that they are fully vaccinated prior to coming to campus. If you are a primary point of contact for bringing individuals in any of these various capacities to campus, please read the vendor policy carefully, and be sure to share the information with those whom you are inviting to campus. 

Travel

Though the College is not restricting domestic travel of students, faculty, or staff members, employees are urged to be judicious in making travel arrangements. We strongly encourage you to avail yourselves of any remote alternatives that may be available. As Provost and Dean of the Faculty Sarah Willie-LeBreton mentioned in her recent communications, faculty and instructional staff who seek permission to travel internationally for College-sponsored activities must complete this request form. All College-supported requests to travel internationally will be reviewed by the International Travel Risk Committee, which will provide recommendations. 

Campus Health and Safety Equipment

If your office or department requires equipment such as masks, disinfecting wipes and sprays, and hand sanitizer, please contact the purchasing office or complete this supplies request form.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this detailed information. I recognize that it is a lot to digest. Please remember that, if at any time you have questions about the College’s COVID-19 policies or protocols, you can always visit our COVID-19 Information site or email covid19@swarthmore.edu.

I wish you the best for an exciting, engaging, and enriching start to the academic year.  

Sincerely, 

Val Smith
President