COVID-19 Update: Arrival registration required by Jan. 10, additional details for spring

Date

Dear Kenyon staff, students and families,

We look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus next week, even as the latest wave of the pandemic presents new challenges. But while the Omicron variant is new, the key layers of our strategy to limit its impact remain the same: vaccination, testing, masking, symptom-checking, case management, and a strong commitment to care for one another. The Kenyon community has embraced these strategies effectively in the past, and our success this semester will again be thanks to your partnership and vigilance.

Following are details of our approach to the opening of term.

Vaccination

Kenyon’s high vaccination rate (more than 99% of students and 83% of employees) is a critical component of our strategy to minimize the effects of COVID-19 and protect local health resources.

  • Booster requirement for students: All students are required to be up-to-date with the COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters. Eligible students should get a booster before returning to campus and submit their documentation via the PyraMED's student portal. Students who do not upload their booster documentation by Feb. 7 will be referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for disciplinary action.

  • Pending federal mandate for employees: The federal vaccine mandate for employers goes before the Supreme Court on Friday, Jan. 7; we will provide additional guidance to employees as soon as it is available. In the meantime, we strongly encourage employees to protect themselves and one another by getting fully vaccinated and boosted. 

Student Testing

  • Pre-arrival testing: We advise students to take a COVID-19 test before departing for campus. If positive, students should contact health@kenyon.edu and complete their isolation period at home.

  • Mandatory arrival testing: To facilitate arrival testing and lab processing, students must register for a 2-hour arrival window by Jan. 10. PCR test kits will be available in Gund Commons Ballroom on Jan. 15-17, from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. Students must administer their test immediately upon arrival and drop off their sample for shipping on the same day they collect it (in the Mail Center until 4 p.m. or, if arriving later, in the Office of Residential Life until 10 p.m.) The lab generally turns around results within 24 to 48 hours. Students who fail to participate in arrival testing will be subject to disciplinary action through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

  • Symptomatic and discretionary testing: Throughout the semester, symptomatic students can be tested at the Cox Health and Counseling Center. Students also may obtain one PCR test per week from the Mail Center for use at their discretion.

Classes and Campus Life

Through at least the first two weeks of classes, campus will remain in a modified, precautionary Campus Activity Level 3. During this time:

  • Classes: While in-person instruction remains the default, classes may be conducted remotely at the discretion of the instructor during the first two weeks of the semester. Faculty members who choose to teach remotely should inform their department chair and the students enrolled in their courses by Wednesday, Jan. 12, and remote classes must meet at the scheduled class time. For all other courses, students are expected to attend class in person; faculty members are not expected to develop remote or hybrid sessions. Faculty will work closely with students in isolation to ensure that they will be able to continue to progress, using whatever mechanisms they deem most appropriate for their course.

  • Masks: Masks are required in all indoor spaces and when gathering in close proximity outdoors. Proper masking is especially important with the Omicron variant, with masks fitted tightly to the face and over both the nose and mouth. For added protection, we encourage double-masking (wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask to produce a tighter seal) or using high-efficiency respirators that meet specific national or international standards, like N95 or KN95. Single-layer cloth masks, gaiters and bandanas do not meet CDC guidance and are prohibited. 

  • Dining: Indoor dining will be available in Peirce Hall, but students should do everything they can to limit crowding and exposure. We encourage students to take meals to go whenever possible and to remain masked when not actively eating and drinking. Extended lingering and socializing without masks is prohibited.

  • Events and meetings: Events and meetings should take place remotely whenever possible. Supervised rehearsals and performances, athletic practices and competitions, and some registered events will proceed in-person, with careful attention given to masking, distancing and other aspects of COVID-19 safety. Any food and drink associated with events must be grab-and-go. Questions about specific events can be directed to events@kenyon.edu.

  • Student gatherings: Informal student gatherings are limited to one guest per resident to a maximum of 10 individuals in public spaces, indoors or out, and masks must be worn at all times. In residential spaces, masks may be removed only in private spaces when alone or with a roommate or roommates.

  • Campus offices and student work: With approval of the division head, some offices may scale back on-site work during the first two weeks of term. In those cases, supervisors of student workers are encouraged to identify opportunities for remote work and, if those are unavailable, to work with students to schedule additional hours when precautions ease. 

Exiting Level 3 and relaxing these enhanced precautions depend both on student participation in testing and on case numbers remaining within our capacities for isolation housing and student care.

Symptoms, Isolation and Quarantine

The highly contagious nature of Omicron means that we will have cases on campus this semester. The variant’s high rate of spread stems in part from the reduced time between when a person is exposed and when they can infect others. In this context, it is critical that students and employees monitor themselves closely for symptoms and follow quarantine and isolation protocols carefully. We are continuing to monitor changes in the latest CDC guidance, but at this time we are maintaining our existing quarantine and isolation protocols.

Financial and Emotional Support

We are mindful that with each phase of the pandemic come new waves of uncertainty, and varying levels of stress on individuals and households. The Cox Center staff, the chaplains and other members of the student affairs team are available to help students navigate any challenges they may face. We encourage any student facing financial hardship — whether due to unexpected travel expenses, loss of student or family income, or other unforeseen circumstances — to request emergency relief funds. (Checks can be issued to students whether or not they are receiving other financial aid.) For staff, the Employee Assistance Program is available 24/7, with resources for financial and caregiver support, counseling and crisis services. 

As always, our strategy is designed to safeguard the Kenyon community while maintaining an engaged academic and campus life experience, based on the latest science and the guidance of local and national public health authorities. Over the past 22 months, the Kenyon community has demonstrated its resilience, compassion and flexibility, rising to every challenge that the pandemic has given to us. The new risks presented by the Omicron variant are real, but we are confident that we can deal with changing circumstances by remaining committed to our collective well-being and by continuing to extend support and grace to one another.

On behalf of the COVID Steering Committee,

Best wishes,
Drew Kerkhoff