Jan. 14 - To the Salve Regina community: Frequently asked questions about our COVID-19 response

Dear Salve Regina community,

Throughout the course of this pandemic, our decisions have been driven by our commitment to maintaining the vitality of our campus community, upholding academic integrity, preserving a quality mercy education, and protecting the transformative opportunities offered through a residential experience. Below please find answers to some frequently asked questions for the spring semester.

Why isn't Salve Regina going fully remote in January like some other institutions?

The decision of when and how to open was reached after many conversations across campus, consultations with health experts and close examination of both statewide and campus data. We know that continued remote learning has had serious consequences for the mental health of our students, and that there have been no cases of transmission via the classroom on our campus. We delayed the start of the spring 2022 semester in order to provide additional time to protect our community and we have instituted additional mitigation efforts through Feb. 1 to help ensure our educational mission remains intact.

Please know that we will be watching the numbers carefully as students arrive with a negative test in hand, are tested on site, and hopefully receive their booster at the clinic offered alongside our testing center. If we see a pattern where the positive numbers are high, we always have the option to switch our classes to remote learning. We have also allowed flexibility for our faculty to offer remote environments if positive cases occurred in their own families or with multiple students in their particular class.

If you know there are going to be increased cases on campus, why are you not offering the dual-modality option for learning?

We know that the campus experience is so important to the overall Salve Regina experience, and we want to maintain that as much as we are able. Again, our data shows no virus transmission via the classroom. We are also finding that in our region, those who are vaccinated and boosted are continuing to present with only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Vaccination with the inclusion of a booster continues to be one of the best tools for managing the effects of COVID-19 among our population.

While it is important to monitor all trends related to the pandemic, the number of positive cases is no longer the best metric to influence COVID-19 strategies. We must shift our focus to the prevention of severe illness and hospitalization, controlling spread through mitigation and maintaining adequate systems to support isolation and quarantine should it be necessary. We know that COVID-19 is not going away and new variants will appear. We need to manage the presence of the disease on our campus in a way that best suits our University mission and core values as they relate to academics, and the overall wellness of our students and other members of our community.

With classes in-person, how will students who test positive or who are in quarantine be able to keep up with their work?

Access to learning remains our top priority, and our contact tracing has produced no evidence of COVID-19 transmission within classrooms. However, we know that some students will need to miss classes for up to seven days. Students should continue to work with their instructors to develop a plan for needed coursework during the isolation period.

Academic supports will be based on individual circumstances. Students who experience significant disruption due to required isolation or quarantine should work with their professors and, if necessary, the dean of undergraduate studies or their graduate program director to find a resolution.

Faculty members who are required to isolate (or care for a dependent family member who is isolating) will utilize a fully remote modality to continue class instruction. Students should always monitor their salve.edu email for information as to whether a given course will run in person or virtually.

As an academic, mercy community, we must understand that collectively, our "real-world experience" includes dealing with this pandemic together, so that we can continue learning together.

Will Salve Regina continue to hold events or gatherings?

Salve Regina has modified some operations through Feb. 1 in order to mitigate anticipated impact from the omicron variant. These include: 

  • Using "to-go" options in the dining hall and de-densifying seating areas.
  • No in-person meetings with food served.
  • Lectures and in-person events will move to a virtual format.
  • No spectators at athletics events or performances.
  • No non-Salve guests in residence halls (families are allowed to assist with move-in).
  • All external events in Salve Regina facilities are cancelled or should be rescheduled.

Why does getting a booster really matter?

Data has shown that a booster provides added protection against symptomatic and severe disease, which is increasingly important with fast-spreading viruses like the Omicron variant. This does not mean that a person is immune from getting the virus but rather, the impact of the virus has proven to be less severe. Under current CDC guidelines, having the booster in addition to being vaccinated for COVID-19 also reduces the amount of time necessary for quarantine or isolation.

Salve Regina has a booster mandate for March 1. This does not mean that eligible students, faculty and staff should wait until that time to get boosted. The sooner the better.

Does the recent Supreme Court decision about vaccine mandates apply to Salve Regina?

No. This decision does not apply to Salve Regina as a private institution.

Why should I wear a high-quality mask and what should I do if I can't find one?

Due to the increased contagiousness of the Omicron variant, we are strongly encouraging students and employees to wear high-quality masks such as an N95, KN95, KF94 or a surgical mask whenever possible. As a reminder, masks are required in all indoor public spaces on campus regardless of vaccination status or immunity. We know that these masks may be harder to secure at the moment, so here are some considerations: 

  • Surgical masks are better than cloth, but double masking also helps.
  • Make sure your mask fits correctly: 
    • Completely covers your nose and mouth.
    • Fits snugly against the side of your face and doesn't have gaps.
    • Has a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out the top of the mask.
    • Is worn under your scarf, ski mask or balaclava.
    • You can tighten the fit of your mask with a mask-fitter. These are rubber or silicone devices that go over your mask, creating a tighter seal around the top, bottom, and sides. 
  • You can extend the life of your N95, KN95, KF94 by rotating days of wear and storing in a paper bag. The mask should sit for at least 24-48 hours in a dry place, free of contamination. In order to have a clean mask to wear every day, you'll need to have a few on hand so that you can rotate them out. Each mask should have its own paper bag, labeled with a number for easy tracking. Each mask may be used up to three times.
  • Students with concerns regarding availability of high-quality masks should contact Student Affairs. Employees should reach out to Human Resources.

What is the University’s approach to testing in the spring?

Students are required to have a negative test in order to return to campus. This identifies potential asymptomatic cases in advance of the standard onboarding test that Salve Regina provides as a base to testing for the semester. As the semester progresses, the University will continue with its targeted surveillance testing program as it did in the fall.

How are people notified when they test positive?

Positive individuals are contacted via phone by Health Services.

If I test positive outside the University either at home or at an off-campus site, am I required to report this to Salve Regina?

Yes, this information should be reported and is vital for tracking and mitigation purposes. All information submitted is confidential.

Will Salve Regina adhere to the CDC's new guidance on a five-day isolation period for those who test positive?

The University has reviewed the latest CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine periods. Based on these guidelines and taking into consideration the congregate living settings and behaviors of most undergraduate students, the isolation period for students is seven days from the date symptoms first appeared and until symptoms have improved. Isolation can end after seven full days if the positive individual is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved. Students who are asymptomatic will isolate for seven days from the date of their positive test.

Regardless of symptoms, all students testing positive should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public for three additional days (day 8-10) after the end of the seven-day isolation period. If you are unable to wear a mask when around others, you should continue to isolate for a full 10 days.

Faculty and staff may adhere to CDC guidelines. Graduate students are asked to remain off campus for seven days to be consistent with undergraduate policies.

With an expected increase in cases, what is the plan for isolation/quarantine housing?

The University has isolation and quarantine housing available on campus as well as through partnerships with four area hotels. Isolation and quarantine housing is assigned and managed through the Office of Residence life so as to ensure as little disruption as possible to the residential needs of students.

What happens with roommates if one tests positive?

Roommates are typically separated during the quarantine and isolation process unless they are both positive. The University’s preference is for positive students to return to their permanent residence during isolation, but we also understand that this option may not be possible for all.

What about older faculty and staff or those who may be immunocompromised?

As a mercy community, the needs of those who may be more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 have always been accounted for. With all members of the community fully vaccinated and boosted, we believe the risks of severe illness will continue to decrease. Those employees and individuals with specific concerns are encouraged to work with Human Resources, their supervisors or the Dean of Students to determine the safest way to carry out their responsibilities.

Where do I go if I have questions?

There are many individuals at the ready to assist with questions or concerns. The easiest way to ensure you are directed to the best resource is to email coronavirus@salve.edu.

We know that the pandemic continues to cause anxiety and concern for many. We want to assure you that Salve Regina will remain vigilant this semester as we seek to keep students safe, respond to developments and support learning at all levels. Please continue to monitor email for communications regarding our response to COVID-19.