Spring Semester COVID-19 Updates for Employees - January 5, 2022

Dear Faculty and Staff,

We hope this message finds you well. As you know, the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force has continued to meet and monitor the latest public health guidance and data – including the significant rise in COVID cases in the Boston area, Massachusetts, and around the nation.

The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff continues to be our top priority during this pandemic. We write today with several important COVID-19 updates for the spring semester related to return to campus and remote learning, masks, and testing. Please also review the message sent to students on these issues.

Remote Learning the Week of January 17

After careful consideration and input from our public health experts, Simmons has decided that all classes will be taught remotely during the first week of the spring semester beginning Tuesday, January 18. We plan to resume in-person classes on Monday, January 24, though we will continue to closely monitor the latest University-level and broader public health COVID data.

Virtual learning during this week will help achieve several important goals, including the establishment of a baseline for our on campus COVID caseload, while allowing students, faculty, and staff to establish a regular testing cadence for the spring semester. This remote week will also reduce potential interruptions to teaching and learning during the start of the semester for those who may test positive and need to return home and/or to isolate.

The Fens and Common Grounds will be closed until Monday, January 24. 

Returning to Campus

Essential staff have continued to work on campus throughout winter break, and student-facing staff should return to campus next week if scheduled to do so. All other staff should continue to work remotely and/or in conjunction with the unique business needs of their department until January 24. As a reminder, all employees must complete a COVID-19 test (PCR or home test) up to 72 hours before their return to campus.

Employees may test on their own and upload results via CoVerified by following these instructions. During this time, all employees are welcome to come to campus to receive a COVID-19 test and then return home. In addition, all employees must test on the first day of their return to campus for work.

Updated Testing Policy

Given the rise of the Omicron variant, Simmons is updating its testing policy. All students, faculty, and staff who are on campus one day a week will continue to test once a week. If students, faculty, or staff are on campus more than one day a week, they will now need to test twice a week – regardless of vaccination or booster status, until further notice. We will evaluate this policy as the semester continues.

Please note, the COVID testing site will remain in the Linda K. Paresky Center (LKP), not the Special Functions room, as previously communicated, to accommodate all who need testing in a safe and spacious environment. The LKP is located on the third floor of the Main College Building, closest to Palace Road.

Testing Hours

  • January 3 – 5: 10am to 4pm at the Health Center, located on the Simmons residential campus
  • January 6 - 7: 9am to 3pm in the Linda K. Paresky Center (LKP)
  • January 10 – 14: 9am to 3pm in LKP
  • January 15 -17: Saturday 9am – 5pm; Sunday 9am – 5pm; Monday 9am – 5pm in LKP
  • January 18 (Regular Testing Site Hours Resume): Monday – Thursday 9am – 6pm; Friday 9am-5pm in LKP

Reporting a Positive COVID Test Result

If you tested positive for COVID-19 during the winter break, please make sure to upload the results in CoVerified. This is very important, as it impacts testing protocols and our campus COVID data. Per CDC guidelines, any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 is exempt from further COVID testing for 90 days.

Mask Guidance

Simmons is updating our mask policy to reflect the latest CDC guidance about the relative ineffectiveness of cloth masks. Students, faculty, and staff should wear a KN95 or N95 mask whenever possible. There are many counterfeit KN95 masks for sale on the internet, so please visit ProjectN95 or the CDC to find safe and effective masks. Alternatively, you may wear a medical/surgical paper mask with a close fitting cloth mask over it. As we did in the fall, Simmons has a supply of paper masks available. They can be requested through the Facilities Department.

Isolating After a Positive COVID Test

Simmons continues to follow public health guidance from local, state, and federal agencies. As a result, we are implementing Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s updated isolation recommendations following a positive COVID test. If an employee shows no symptoms five days after a positive COVID test, the isolation period will be shortened to five days, followed by five days of wearing a tight-fitting mask indoors and when around others.

If you have a question about your symptoms, please contact a medical professional. Individuals who are still symptomatic after five days are to remain in isolation for the full 10 days, per Mass. DPH guidance. These guidelines are subject to change as additional information becomes available by the CDC and Mass. DPH.

Simmons COVID-19 Alert Level Matrix

The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff continues to be our top priority during this pandemic. To help students, faculty, and staff better understand the level of risk on our campus and the key metrics that impact our decisions, we are finalizing a community-facing COVID Alert Level matrix that will be available for the start of the spring semester. This matrix weighs a variety of factors that we have considered throughout this pandemic – including campus-based positive cases, transmission rates in the broader community, isolation and quarantining capacity on-campus, campus employee and staffing levels negatively impacted by positive cases, city, state and CDC guidelines, and local hospital capacity, among other indicators.

Reminder: COVID-19 Booster Requirement

All campus-based students, faculty, and staff during the spring semester will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Individuals must get their COVID-19 booster by January 18, 2022, or 14 days after they become eligible for the booster. Individuals become eligible for a booster five months after their second Pfizer dose, six months after their second Moderna dose, and two months after the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose. If you are having trouble accessing a booster, you can schedule an appointment at the state’s newly revived mass vaccination site at Fenway Park.

In addition, Simmons is planning an onsite booster clinic on February 2, 2022. This clinic is hosted by Osco Pharmacy​ and open to students, faculty, and staff​. ​Osco can provide all three vaccines: Moderna, Pfizer, and Janssen,​ and can incorporate first, second, and booster doses.​ Attendees should bring their physical vaccine record cards. If unable to provide that, then they should provide documentation of previous vaccines so they can be issued a new card.​ A link will be provided by Osco Pharmacy for attendees to schedule their appointments.

Please submit any COVID-related questions to [email protected]. Thank you for your continued leadership and support for our COVID-19 policies and protocols, which are vital to keep our community safe this semester.

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce