March 8, 2021
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
Since last Monday, the Colleges administered 926 COVID-19 tests, 913 of which were negative while 13 (1.4%) were positive. The positive cases continue to result primarily from “living-room” spread, how public health officials refer to small gatherings. We continue with our isolation and quarantine protocols under direction from the county and are glad that seven members of the HWS community are considered to have recovered during this last week. Our aggressive surveillance testing is ongoing so that every student is tested once every two weeks, with more frequent testing for athletes in league play.
While the number of students in quarantine have dropped, we recognize that being in quarantine still poses difficulties for students and their professors. We want to take this opportunity to note that we expect faculty to provide reasonable accommodations for students who find themselves in this situation. We encourage faculty to use, where possible, the webcams that are available in classrooms to allow remote access to classroom activities, to post notes and other materials on Canvas sites, and to work with quarantined students to help them continue to engage. For students in quarantine, we encourage them to be proactive in reaching out to faculty and classmates, to be creative in keeping up with their classes, and to understand that remote access to class may not always be possible.
Last week the Governor’s office clarified for higher education that food service employees, including student employees, are now considered eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1b. Those students who work for dining services were notified and the Colleges provided transportation to the vaccination site in Syracuse for those who were able to secure an appointment. We continue to advocate to New York State for additional vaccination opportunities for staff and students.
We thank the many students and employees with whom we spoke during the past week, including the COVID Coalition, who shared helpful suggestions and observations regarding how we can improve our COVID response. We have already begun to implement several changes as a result of these conversations, and we look forward to continued conversations for information sharing. We also take this opportunity to thank the staff of the Herald for their good work helping to share information with the campus community.
While an increasing number of persons on campus who are eligible to do so are now partially or fully vaccinated, many front-facing employees as well as most students still are not. We must all continue with our collective efforts to follow public health guidance, use PPE, observe social distancing requirements, and be particularly cautious in spaces through which “living room” spread can occur.
We hope that you all will take advantage of the nicer weather this week to get outside regularly for a walk around campus or by the lake. Later this week, we will communicate plans underway for more activities that take advantage of the nicer weather and that allow students the opportunity to connect in safe ways.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty
Vice President for Campus Life