On Nov. 6, Gov. Charlie Baker implemented new coronavirus guidelines to combat the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, reflecting a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases have steadily risen in Massachusetts, with 2,302 new cases reported on Nov. 7 according to the New York Times, marking the highest daily number of new cases in Mass. since April.
The new guidelines were first announced on Nov. 2 and include a requirement for those over the age of 5 to wear a face covering in all public locations both indoors and outdoors; a stay-at-home advisory between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for Massachusetts residents; and new limitations on the size of gatherings permitted at private residences of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. These new measures will “remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency is ended,” according to Baker’s order. While the guidelines change some aspects of on-campus life, including athletic practices and off-campus residences, not all of them affect the College as an institution of higher education currently closed to the public.
The College’s reopening plan is detailed in the COVID-19 Higher Education Control Plan, a “self-certification that institutions have adopted the COVID-19 workplace safety rules and requirements instituted under the Governor’s Reopening Orders for Phase II and Phase III.” All institutions of higher education in the state must complete the control plan, which was updated earlier this month, before the end of 2020.
Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration Matt Sheehy specified how Baker’s order will impact the College in an all-campus email on Nov. 5. In his email, Sheehy noted that all members of the College community should wear a mask everywhere on campus except for personal spaces, including while exercising outdoors, and that “athletics practices and physical education classes will continue with existing protocols.” This policy is a change from the College’s previous guideline on masks during physical activity, under which an individual could exercise without a mask if they were at least 12 feet away from others.
Sheehy wrote that parts of the Governor’s order will not apply to the College, as operating hours for academic facilities will remain unchanged since the College’s facilities are closed to the public. For students living in on-campus residences at the College, “current protocols already were in alignment with respect to the enhanced guidelines under the Order and therefore there is no change,” Sheehy said.
Several facilities at the College are subject to Baker’s Nov. 6. guidelines, such as dining halls, which are now required to close at 9:30 p.m. per the stay-at-home advisory. However, most facilities — including libraries, science labs and dorms — follow the Higher Education guidelines, and thus may continue to operate as usual.
However, some of the Governor’s order applies to students in private, off-campus residences. For those off-campus students, “The state now expects [them] to end visits and gatherings by 9:30 p.m. and stay home at night with … housemates only, except in an emergency,” Sheehy said. “We sure hope you like your housemates,” he added.