As COVID-19 continues to exert itself, especially through the Omicron variant, those returning to campus for the Spring 2022 semester will find many familiar protocols already in place. Everyone can still expect to wear face masks most places and get tested regularly as the semester commences, and students will have access to a full range of activities (including Spree Day) — with appropriate health and safety precautions, of course. Other protocols have been added or adjusted to account for the latest COVID surge.
Here are 11 things to expect this semester.
Both residential and non-residential students must submit their COVID-19 testing status 24 to 48 hours before arriving at Clark if they’re not currently testing regularly through the Clark University Testing Center. Only students who test negative and share that information through the Pre-Arrival Testing Information Form can return to campus.
All residential students must test at the Testing Center before checking in to their residence halls, and non-residential students must test there before the start of classes on Jan. 18.
The dining hall is de-densified and will be open for students, staff, and faculty beginning Jan. 18, but everyone is asked to avoid lingering at the table after eating. In an effort to reduce COVID transmission, any fully vaccinated student who is identified as a close contact is strongly encouraged to use the grab-and-go feature from the Higgins Café and Bistro until they receive a negative test. Students on the meal plan can get a reusable grab-and-go container from the cashier at the Café, serve themselves, and eat in their room or outside if weather permits.
Clarkies are required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces and when interacting with others in private offices on campus. The policy applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Because cloth masks have proven to be less effective at preventing the spread of the Omicron variant, wearing KN95 or N95 masks is strongly encouraged. Clark will have KN95 masks available at the information desk at the University Center, at the ASEC Student Information Desk, and at the Help Desk in the Academic Commons.
Beginning Jan. 31, students can briefly pull down their masks in classrooms for a quick sip of their drink. However, there is no eating in class.
Spectators currently aren’t permitted at indoor athletic events. But the Kneller Athletic Center and the Dolan Field House will be open at full capacity this spring semester for recreational activity. Mask protocols inside the facilities apply, though masks do not need to be worn in the pool. It’s expected that intramural and club sports will return under conditions that are as normal as possible. Participants must comply with mask-wearing and testing requirements.
Clark students must test every three days during the semester at the Clark Testing Center. For faculty and staff, testing is required at a minimum of every seven days. Unvaccinated staff and faculty must test every four days. And any staff and faculty on campus more than three days per week are encouraged to test multiple times per week.
The Healthy Clark Dashboard, which tracks COVID-19 cases, testing, and vaccinations on campus, is getting a new look this semester. The dashboard will begin to track the number of tests collected, individuals tested, and new positives each week, giving a glimpse of trends in virus spread as the pandemic continues. It will now also show the seven-day positive rate for Massachusetts higher education institutions and Massachusetts overall to compare to Clark’s rate.
Clark recently raised its alert level to Alert Level 3 in response to the significant COVID infection levels produced by the Omicron variant. That means face coverings are always required, sit-down dining is not open to campus visitors, and surveillance testing frequencies may increase. As we continue through the semester, alert levels may change. Read more about the alert levels here.
Clarkies should check their email for their test results (even positives) and know that in the beginning of the semester it may take more than 24 hours to receive a test result. Clark is increasing the number of dedicated isolation spaces — both in residence halls and area hotels — to accommodate the expected rise in campus positivity rates this semester. Students who are able to return home without using public transportation may choose to isolate there. Because isolation space is limited, there is a chance that students may need to isolate in place at their residence hall if those spaces fill up. That’s a situation Clark is working to avoid. Clark plans to prioritize isolation spaces for students who are immunocompromised.
Any students who need emotional support can call and schedule an appointment with one of the counselors at the Center for Counseling and Personal Growth (508-793-7678). New resources, groups for the spring, and in-person options are expected to resume in mid-February. If you want to talk with a peer, Peer Support Workers are available Sunday to Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m. in room 202 on the second floor of the library. Workers can see students by appointment or just by showing up. Students are also encouraged to participate in Wellness Education’s weekly wellness staples – Monday morning stretch, walk it out Wednesdays, and guided meditations on Thursdays to regularly incorporate wellness and mindfulness practices into their daily lives. Clark employees seeking mental health services can visit Clark’s Work/Life Resources site.
Clark’s spring calendar features a host of activities including Wellness Day, Spree Day, and dozens of student club performances and events, including the International Gala. Clark is committed to fostering and supporting a vibrant, in-person student experience – with proper Healthy Clark COVID protocols in place. While gathering sizes will be limited for the first few weeks of the semester, there are plenty of activities going on that students can find on Clark Engage and Student Leadership & Programming is ready to help clubs make their events successful. Clark Shuttle is a free and great way to get around campus and the community. Rides will resume on Jan. 15 with a new pick-up location (in front of Estabrook Hall on Woodland St.) and will run the city loop on Jan. 17 so Clarkies can take advantage of all that Worcester has to offer – including outdoor ice-skating this winter on the Common.