Information about masking on campus

Dear Allegheny College community,

Welcome back! 2020 was hard on everyone, and coronavirus is still with us, but given how well the Allegheny College community kept each other safe during 2020-2021, I am confident that we can have a great year in 2021-2022. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are striving for normalcy at Allegheny College.

I am writing today to address masking on campus. As of this writing, masks are not required, indoors or outdoors, for vaccinated persons on campus who are participating in Allegheny College’s testing protocol. Here is why:

  • 99.9% of students are vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • 88% of employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • 94% of faculty are vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • 29 students received vaccine exemptions. These students are collaborating closely with ACHA to enjoy campus life without risking their health or the health of others. They will remain masked at all times, physically distance and test weekly.
  • Students who are vaccine-exempt or were not fully vaccinated before arriving on campus provided a negative PCR result before move-in. One of these students tested positive for COVID-19; they are currently asymptomatic and will join campus when their isolation is complete.
  • Professors, extracurricular advisors, coaches and resident advisors have been notified of vaccine-exempt students so they can provide support and protection for all.
  • Employees who have not been vaccinated or who have chosen not to disclose their vaccination status to ACHA will remain masked at all times, physically distance and test weekly.
  • All students and employees were tested for COVID-19 in the two weeks leading up to the first day of class. We performed over 1,800 Abbot BINAX COVID-19 tests and 35 Gannon PCR tests with one positive result. That person is in isolation and is feeling well.
  • We will test the entire Allegheny community every two weeks; every day over 100 students will be tested, starting the day after move-in.
  • The CDC recommends that vaccinated people wear masks in public spaces or in places of high transmission. Allegheny College is a private space with limited visitors and, given our low move-in testing rates, is a place of low transmission.
  • Campus visitors are limited and must mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • You can stay abreast of our testing stats on the Case Dashboard.

Perhaps the biggest reason that vaccinated persons do not need to mask at this time is because Allegheny College has shown itself to be a community of mutual respect and care. When it became available, nearly all Gators got the COVID-19 vaccine — often out of care for others, despite their own reservations. Allegheny community members show up for their COVID-19 tests — our “no show” rate is minuscule. Gators stay home when they feel sick; they let us know when they have had contact with COVID-positive persons; they are honest about contact tracing. Last year, there were zero cases of transmission of COVID-19 in the classroom. This is a community that knows how to stay safe during the pandemic.

As a community of mutual care, we all agree to respect the health concerns of one another. At this time, masks are not required on campus for vaccinated persons who are participating in Allegheny College’s testing protocol. However, anyone who wishes to wear a mask is encouraged to do so.

Public health experts recommend an N95 mask for the best individual protection; ACHA has these available upon request. Please see Cindy Huya, the ACHA nurse, at the Wise Center to obtain an N95 mask. The Gator masks that were recently distributed will also reduce community transmission. ACHA is closely monitoring COVID-19 on campus and in our surrounding community. If campus COVID-19 rates rise, ACHA may ask everyone to temporarily mask indoors, either temporarily or longer-term.

And as a reminder, ACHA is not just me, Dr. Morrow. The ACHA team members are Emily Shears, an epidemiologist who is Director of Quality Improvement and Infection Prevention at UPMC; Bruce McIndoe, President of McIndoe Risk Advisory LLC and a leader in risk management, technology and intelligence; Sue Steven, a retired microbiologist for the U.S. Navy; and Trae Yeckley, Associate Dean for Community Standards and Wellness. We meet every other week to advise President Link and the Cabinet, with frequent contact in between our meetings. We all agree on this recommendation.

Gator strong. Gator safe.

Dr. Morrow