Trinity Implements Mask Mandate, Tightens Fall COVID-19 Protocols

6 min read

Jack P. Carroll ‘24

Managing Editor

Trinity College now requires all students, faculty and staff to wear masks on campus, according to an email from Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina and Chief of Staff Jason Rojas Wednesday afternoon. The mask mandate, which went into effect on Thursday, applies to community members in all indoor activities and common areas such as classrooms, event spaces and hallways. Additionally, masks must be worn by all attendees at “outdoor college- and student-sponsored events and gatherings.” Masks are not required when alone such as in a private office or college-sponsored housing; those who are “going about daily outdoor activities” are also not required to wear masks at this time.

DiChristina and Rojas indicated that Trinity’s mask mandate was motivated by local data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “The latest information from CDC recommends masks be worn in regions where the COVID-19 virus is being substantially transmitted. As of July 28, Hartford County is classified as one of those locations.” 

Trinity’s previous policy, which allowed for “informal agreements between vaccinated members of our community to remove masks while inside campus buildings,” no longer stands.

DiChristina and Rojas did not indicate when the mask mandate would end; instead, they stated that the policy was made “out of an abundance of caution and it will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.”

In addition to the mask mandate, Trinity will implement a host of additional COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester including: capacity limits, physical distancing, vaccination, surveillance testing and off-campus travel restrictions. These protocols were developed to mitigate the spread of variants. 

A 50 percent capacity limit will be placed on all non-classroom indoor events; while classrooms, “which are supervised environments where everyone is presumed to be vaccinated,” will remain at full capacity. 

When asked if unvaccinated students will be allowed inside full capacity classrooms, Rojas told the Tripod in an email Friday “Individuals that are given an approved exemption will be allowed in classrooms and must wear masks at all times while on campus.”

Physical distancing requirements will apply to student-sponsored events that are not supervised by a college employee and occur indoors. For these events, which are subject to the 50 percent capacity limit, all participants are required to maintain a three-foot distance between one another. There are currently no physical-distancing protocols for outdoor student-sponsored events that are not supervised by a college employee. However, these events must operate at 50 percent capacity and attendees are expected to wear masks. 

Rojas confirmed to the Tripod that physical distancing will not be required inside the classroom: “Our classrooms have been returned to regular capacity. Based on data from last year, we know that classrooms were not a source of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The risk of transmission is further mitigated because most individuals present in a classroom will be vaccinated and wearing a mask.” Rojas added, “We will continue to closely monitor public health conditions and guidance and adjust plans as needed.”

DiChristina and Rojas also announced that both students and employees are required to get vaccinated in order to be on campus. In April, the Tripod reported that Trinity would be requiring students–but not faculty and staff–to get vaccinated. Explaining this development, Rojas told the Tripod that “At the time of the Tripod‘s April inquiry, we hadn’t yet decided to require employee vaccinations. So, there was no change in policy. Public health officials have made it clear that the surest way to mitigate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus is a high vaccination rate.”

Trinity’s vaccination requirement does not apply to students who have an approved medical or religious exemption. When asked about the percentage of unvaccinated students who will be on campus in the fall, Rojas told the Tripod that “We are in the process of reviewing exemption requests. We will share this data upon completion of our review process.”

The COVID-19 surveillance testing site has transitioned from the Ferris Athletic Center to a smaller operation at the Trinity College Health Center.

DiChristina and Rojas stated that “vaccinated students and employees will not need to be tested.” However, in the same section of their email, they announced that 10 to 15 percent of the student population will be tested on a weekly basis to the help the College “monitor the possible presence of COVID-19 within our student community, given the close proximity of living with each other and because of the onset of a variant that we continue to learn about.” 

When asked by the Tripod about how Trinity will determine which students will be tested–aside from unvaccinated students who, Rojas confirmed, will receive weekly testing–Rojas responded: “Additional information about our surveillance testing protocol will be shared with the community prior to the start of classes.” Rojas added, “We are not using CoVerified this year as we are not requiring symptom reporting and the logistics of testing a smaller pool of students does not require it.” He also indicated that Trinity is “evaluating how we will report data on an updated dashboard” and that “We will update the community later in the month.”

Regarding Trinity’s travel policy, DiChristina and Rojas indicated that faculty and staff may participate in college-sponsored travel in accordance with CDC travel guidance. Employees are prohibited from traveling to areas categorized by the CDC as Level 4 risks, where the COVID-19 level is “very high.” Level 3 areas are permissible in very limited circumstances and must be approved by a division head. 

Rojas clarified to the Tripod that students participating in college-sponsored travel will be subject to the same guidance as faculty and staff consistent with CDC COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination. He confirmed that students will be able to participate in certain study abroad programs and protocols specific to a location. Rojas also noted that the 2020 Community Contract will not apply to the academic year; instead, an updated community contract “that will be narrower in scope” will be shared with students later this month. 

DiChristina and Rojas further announced that The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) will return to full conference schedules and championships this fall. Asked about the potential spread of COVID-19 from Trinity’s athletic teams which will be traveling out of state, Rojas told the Tripod that members of the NESCAC will meet in the coming weeks and provide guidance.

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