February 8, 2021
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
We write with gratitude to our community and in particular our students who have taken the situation regarding COVID-19 on campus very seriously. After pausing all non-academic activities on Friday at 4 p.m., we had a quiet weekend with nearly everyone complying with our new temporary measures. The number of positive cases appears to be abating, with the majority of positives recorded this weekend coming from tests administered before Friday’s new constraints were announced. If we can continue to collectively act with caution now, we believe we can eliminate the clusters of cases we’ve seen since the start of the semester. By Feb. 16, we anticipate that nearly every student currently in quarantine or isolation will be out.
Over the weekend, we did get questions from members of our community about when Hobart and William Smith might need to go to a full quarantine situation, in which all activities including classes would be moved to a remote model. New York State indicates a mandatory pivot to remote learning for 14 days if the number of cases on a campus reaches 100 (or 5% of the student body) over a two-week period. The current period started on Saturday, Jan. 30, and runs through Friday, Feb. 12. We are not yet near the 100-case threshold for this time-period and do not anticipate that we will be as long as we can contain the spread of the virus. The steps we announced on Friday are designed to do that.
We know this has been a challenging time and recognize that our students very much want to participate in extracurricular activities, athletics, clubs and social events. Our diligence now – including the cooperation of all members of our community in adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing – will reinstate non-academic activities quickly.
Many of our faculty have been able to receive the vaccine and the Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs remains available to provide proof of eligibility to those who are teaching in-person classes. In addition, on Friday, the Governor’s Office announced an expansion in vaccine eligibility starting on Feb. 15, to include those with a list of comorbidities and underlying conditions. Details on prescreening and possible locations for the administration of the vaccine are available online.
Finally, our community has been inspired by the achievements of so many graduates and educators in the past week as the Board of Trustees welcomed five new members to its ranks, we announced our Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients, and celebrated the 200th birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, a member of the class of 1849. And last night, of course, we continued to witness moments of inspiration as Ali Marpet ’15 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. The accomplishments of our community members – past and present – demonstrate strength, determination and diligence, and these are the same qualities we will need in the coming days and weeks here on campus. The end of the pandemic is in sight. We need to make sure that in our weariness of necessary strictures, we don’t inadvertently place ourselves or one another in jeopardy.
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Campus Life