Feb. 22, 2022
Dear Bentley Community,
In a few short weeks, it will be exactly two years since COVID-19 upended our lives and asked all of us at Bentley University – and around the world – to change the way we learn, teach, work and operate. From pivoting to remote and hybrid learning and working environments, keeping up with weekly testing requirements, doing your part to get vaccinated and boosted, and wearing masks in public spaces, there have been no shortage of important guidelines that we’ve asked you to be mindful of and dutifully follow. We are so thankful for each member of our community for doing your part to keep yourselves, your peers and your colleagues healthy and safe.
As we’ve said often over the past two years, we will always rely on science, data and the best guidance of public health officials when establishing our on-campus health and safety guidelines. By the end of this week, almost all eligible students, faculty and staff will have received their COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots, bringing our community rate to an impressively high level and providing our entire community the best possible protection from severe infection. At the same time, Massachusetts’ overall vaccination rate has continued to climb, while statewide and local case rates and hospitalization rates have returned to manageable levels. Every step of the way we have remained in close contact with health officials in the city of Waltham and at the Massachusetts Department of Health, and we have carefully reviewed guidance shared by the Executive Office of Education. And as has been so valuable throughout the pandemic, we’ve compared best practices with colleges and universities across the Commonwealth.
While COVID-19 is still very much a reality that requires our attention, we are in a better place today than we were when the Omicron wave was peaking one month ago, and certainly in a better place than we were one year ago before vaccines were widely available. Now, our campus, and many surrounding communities, will begin to look ahead at the long-term management of the virus. Our policies and guidelines will strive to equally prioritize health, safety, wellbeing and the overall atmosphere of our campus community.
That is why today, we are announcing the lifting and revision of the following campus COVID-19 policies:
Effective immediately, weekly screening testing will be voluntary for all undergraduate and residential students who are up to date on their vaccination — meaning you have been fully vaccinated and received a booster shot if eligible. Undergraduate and residential students who are not vaccinated with an approved medical or religious exemption or have not yet received a booster shot despite being eligible will be required to continue testing on a weekly basis.
While our screening testing program has recently identified many new positive cases of COVID-19 on our campus, it has become clear that the lengthy process of isolating and contact tracing for each new positive case has diverted important Health Center resources away from supporting symptomatic students, tracking vaccination and booster compliance and supporting higher-risk community members.
Fortunately, students who are vaccinated and boosted have had very mild symptoms, or in some cases, no symptoms at all. By moving to a voluntary testing program, we will ensure that we are able to direct our resources to those requiring special attention. This new voluntary testing protocol now brings us in line with the recommendations of the state’s higher education and health and human services offices.
Graduate students, faculty who are teaching this semester and front-line staff members may continue to voluntarily test on a weekly basis. As a reminder, do not go to the screening testing center if you are ill or displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Students with symptoms should call the Health Center at 781-891-2222, or University Police if after hours at 781-891-3131, for evaluation. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care office and Dan Battle, who can provide guidance regarding testing and campus protocols.
With this change in the overall frequency of testing, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard will transition to display weekly, cumulative results from voluntary testing.
Masks and Face Coverings
With the city of Waltham lifting its mask mandate for public and private indoor spaces, Bentley will make masks optional, but recommended, in most public spaces on campus effective on March 1.
Masks will still be required in classrooms, the Library, the Health Center and on the Bentley Shuttle. Offices and other locations on campus may determine, due to the specific space or service provided, that masks will be required for all who enter that particular space. This information will be communicated via signage and email communications.
Masks are still required for 10 full days after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, and are required for those who are unvaccinated, not up to date on their vaccination or have not submitted required materials to verify their up-to-date vaccination status.
All community members are required to continue to carry a mask or face covering with them at all times in the event that they are asked to wear one. Please understand there are people in our community who remain at risk for COVID-19, whether personally, having a young child who remains unvaccinated, or caring for high-risk family members. Please be respectful of those who ask you to wear a mask in their space.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 must follow all current isolation guidelines, meaning they are required to isolate for five full days. If on day 6, you display no symptoms of COVID-19 and have been fever-free for 24-hours without the aid of medication, you may exit isolation but must wear a mask in all settings for five full days. Students should be truthful when giving information to contact tracers to determine if others should be tested or enter quarantine housing.
Faculty and staff who test positive should contact Dan Battle to determine a return-to-campus timeline.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been committed to following the best practices of all state and public health guidelines. As communities begin to move to the long-term management of the virus, our campus too will begin to move in that direction. Again, thank you for all that you have done to keep up with the changing health and safety guidelines over the course of the past two years. Your cooperation has ensured that we’ve been able to maintain a safe campus for all.
The Bentley University Cabinet
E. LaBrent Chrite
Donna Maria Blancero