Jack P. Carroll ’24
Trinity College has discontinued the color-coded alert system, according to an email from Chief of Staff Jason Rojas and Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina Tuesday, Feb. 1. The College has also revised its spectator policy so that off-campus guests are now allowed to attend home athletic events.
“Starting this semester, we will discontinue the color-coded alert system and instead will communicate specific and temporary modifications to campus operations as they’re needed to address changing conditions related to the virus,” wrote Rojas and DiChristina. They indicated that these modifications could include learning modalities, dining protocols, in-person campus gatherings for events and programs, off-campus travel, use of facilities such as the library and Ferris Athletics Center, and visitor and COVID testing protocols.
The color-coded alert system was announced in the summer of 2020 as the College prepared for a return to campus after shifting to a remote format in March amidst the onset of the pandemic. There were four campus alert levels: green (least restrictive), yellow, orange, and red (most restrictive). Last semester, a green alert level indicated that in-person learning was allowed and events could be held at reduced capacity with social distancing. Off-campus travel was permitted and visitors were allowed as long as they were vaccinated and wore masks. The same conditions applied under a yellow alert level albeit with more stringent attendance and social distancing safeguards. An orange alert level signified a greater reliance on remote options, potential event cancellations, and a restrictive visitor policy. A red alert level meant all courses were taught remotely, all events were canceled, off-campus travel was prohibited, and guest visitors were actively discouraged.
Responding to questions regarding the College’s shift away from the color-coded alert system, Rojas and DiChristina told the Tripod via email that “This decision reflects a continued evolution in how we manage and respond to COVID-19.” “Things have changed significantly since then , including the virus itself and the fact that our community is almost fully vaccinated and boosted. So rather than rely heavily on positivity case counts and the broad set of changes that the color code indicated, we have more flexibility now to focus on implementing fewer changes to let our campus be as open as possible with fewer restrictions to campus life.”
Rojas and DiChristina also confirmed the Dashboard will be updated a minimum of three times a week. During a virtual town hall in January, Director of Analytics David Andres ’04 announced the Dashboard would be updated three times a week; however, the College’s website claimed at the time that current case counts would only be updated twice per week. The website has since been updated and now states that the Dashboard will be updated a minimum of three times per week.
Trinity moved to a yellow alert level in late December as the number of positive tests reported by students both at home and on campus rose throughout the month. However, the College did not update the alert level from green to yellow until days after the dashboard reported a total of 21 active cases. Rojas told the Tripod at the time that there was no threshold of cases when it came to changing the alert level. He defended the College’s decision to remain at a green alert level throughout the month as the case count increased: “most of the cases were for individuals who are not on campus (therefore not isolating), [sic] many students have left campus for the end of the semester, and there are very few events and activities happening.” DiChristina told the Tripod in December that there were 375 students on campus which included J-term students, student athletes, and international students.
The College did not update the alert level amidst COVID spikes during the fall 2020 semester. That October, the Tripod reported that Trinity did not raise the alert level to red as it reported a total of 45 active cases. The administration declined to specify a case threshold requirement for alert level change. The Tripod had been told that any decision would take into account “a number of considerations with a focus on the prevalence of the virus on campus.” Trinity did not update its alert level from orange later that month when Trinity’s case count surged to 56 after some infected students visited Parkville Market, an off-campus food hall in the Parkville region of Hartford.
Trinity is currently monitoring several factors when deciding whether to adjust campus operations going forward: (1) the number of active cases as indicated by on-campus and self-reported testing, (2) the severity of COVID symptoms, (3) isolation capacity, (4) staffing and operational capacity, and (5) data on where and how the virus is being transmitted on campus. Rojas and DiChristina indicated that a significant increase in cases will not necessarily result in a more restrictive set of public health modifications.
The email announced that Trinity’s home athletic events will be open to vaccinated and masked individuals which includes off-campus guests. In addition, attendance will be limited to 50 percent capacity of the venue. The announcement comes after DiChristina revealed at a virtual town hall in late January that the NESCAC Presidents would soon meet to consider expanding audiences to include family members and other spectators. NESCAC guidance for spectator policies currently allows for institutional discretion.
This article was updated on Thursday, Feb. 10 to include comment from Rojas and DiChristina.