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COVID-19 Update from President Johnson

Updated November 4, 2020

To the Members of the University Community:

You have done such a great job up to this point and I am grateful for all of your hard work.

We are just over three weeks away from the Thanksgiving Holiday and as we read the national, state, and local news regarding the spread of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we remain extremely vigilant and committed to our University’s health and safety protocols.

Our community is doing well in navigating through the pandemic. As of this week we have administered 5,365 tests to our employees and students. We have had 19 positive tests, for a positivity rate of .35%, which is well below the City of Springfield and Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As we have demonstrated to date, if we work together we can uphold our shared value to remain safely on campus until Thanksgiving break.

There are a few points I would like to make sure our community is aware of:

  • On Monday, November 2, Massachusetts Governor Baker issued new guidance regarding gatherings in the Commonwealth. Please read it. It means that we must continue to wear our masks in ALL situations, other than when eating, while on campus. Regardless of whether indoors or outdoors, or within six feet of someone or not, we all must wear our masks!
  • Gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. This applies to students living on and off campus. All off campus gatherings must disperse by 9:30 p.m. with the exception of religious or political gatherings. It is extremely important that we all continue to avoid hosting or attending parties. This is not directed only to students, but to faculty and staff as well.
  • For University sanctioned events, the limit is 25 students for indoor gatherings and a 50-person maximum for outdoor gatherings. On-campus gatherings are not required to adhere to the 9:30 p.m. time limit.
  • The University is aware of the spike in COVID-19 cases at some local colleges and universities. We will continue with our weekly testing program, as outlined on the COVID-19 website. We monitor local data daily and our alert level remains Green. Please remember that no two colleges are alike, and if we work together, we can remain confident that our plan can allow us to stay on campus together.
  • Please read the guidance we posted last week for students about Thanksgiving and Winter break. Remember, all courses at the undergraduate and graduate level will be taught remotely after Thanksgiving break. All finals will also be administered remotely. Residential students have the option to return to campus after Thanksgiving break, but need to complete their intention to do so by November 9. All students returning to campus after Thanksgiving break will receive a COVID-19 test on Monday, November 30 and Tuesday, December 1.
  • Students who wish to be tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving for break are encouraged to do so at the WNE Health Services Center or make arrangements to receive a test at an off-campus location at no charge. Those who choose to be tested should do so by Friday, November 20 so results will be available early the following week.
  • All faculty, staff, and students are strongly encouraged to limit Thanksgiving gatherings. Consider, per state guidance, only indoor gathering with people with whom you live.
  • All faculty, staff, and students must be tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus for the Spring 2021 term. Testing protocols will be the same as they were for the start of the fall semester.

As a campus community, we must all come together, with compassion and empathy. These are not easy times for any of us. Please remember this and be extra kind to yourself and each other. Know that your hard work is much appreciated. If you need additional support, either academically or personally, there are people on campus who are willing to listen and help. Reach out to a member of the faculty or staff. Ask a current student. This is what we do for each other as Golden Bears.

We are almost there. I want to make sure we end the semester as we started—focused on what we need to do to stay healthy and strong. Thank you for all you do to support me and each other!

With gratitude,

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.