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College relaxes masking requirements

February 28, 2022

Effective immediately, fully vaccinated and boosted students, faculty, and staff are allowed to unmask in indoor athletics facilities, academic and administrative buildings, and at events that are open only to members of the campus community, Chief Communications Director Jim Reische announced in an all-campus email today.

Reische noted that today’s announcement follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)  Feb. 25 revisions to masking guidelines, no longer recommends that 70 percent of Americans — those who reside in low and medium-risk counties — wear masks, social distance, and avoid crowded public spaces. According to Reische’s email, Berkshire County is currently a medium-risk community.

Notably, this update lifts mask requirements in Paresky Center and Lasell Gymnasium. Students are no longer required to wear masks anywhere in dining halls, and faculty or staff working in student dormitories are also now permitted to unmask. However, masks are still required for students in COVID-19 isolation when picking up meals.  

Despite these relaxed rules, the College will still require masks in locations in which there are greater chances of COVID spread or interaction with people outside the campus community. With the exception of faculty members who choose to unmask while teaching, masking requirements remain in classes, at COVID testing sites and the Health Center, at the Children’s Center, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) during the hours it is open to the public, libraries, indoor sections of visits through the Office of Admissions, and other indoor events or spaces that are open to the public.  

The nuances of these rules mean that students will not be required to mask in buildings when going to or from class or in classrooms when classes are not occurring, but they will be required to mask during class sessions.  

Reische noted that the College is considering removing the mask requirement for classes in the future, but is not ready to do so now. “We think unmasking in classes is a likely next step, but not quite yet,” Reische wrote in the Feb. 28 email. “Classrooms are distinctive in that attendance is required and opportunities for distancing may be limited. So we want to watch the test results for a period of time following today’s changes before deciding on the timing of such a change.”

He added that, should COVID rates rise, the College reserves the option to reimpose masking requirements as it sees fit. Moreover, he stressed that today’s policy update only affects vaccinated and boosted members of the community, and that those who are unvaccinated or unboosted must continue to mask as before.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of last Friday’s COVID policy updates which eased restrictions following overnight travel away from the College. Quarantine is no longer required for students returning from overnight travel outside Berkshire County, however, students are still required to wear a mask upon return, and continue to do so until receiving a negative PCR test.  

In response to the announcement, Bea Moyers ’25 said that she finds it sensible that the College is removing masking requirements in stages. “I have huge sympathy for [how] difficult it is for administrators to balance public health concerns with a desire for normalcy,” she said. “I feel like the College is doing the best job [it] can under the circumstances.” 

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