Phase Two start date pushed to Thursday, Sept. 17

Late off-campus arrivals and an ‘abundance of caution’ set back next phase of reopening by just two days

By Riley Board

Happy Valley Orchards, a popular fall spot, is one of the places students will have access to in Phase 2. (Benjy Renton)

The next period in the college’s “phased approach” to a safe reopening will be pushed back to Thursday, Sept. 17, two days after it was originally planned to begin. Phase Two allows for greater freedoms, including leaving campus for other locations in Addison County and relaxing physical distancing with a small number of close contacts.  

The announcement was made in an all-school email in the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 14, and came just one day before the widely anticipated start date of Sept. 15, which was described in the Return to Campus Guide as the optimal Phase Two start date, and shared in the mandatory pre-arrival SafeColleges training. 

Dean of Students Derek Doucet said that the transition to Phase Two was delayed because remote students and students taking leaves of absence who are living in the area and only recently arrived in town had not yet completed their arrival quarantine phase mandated by the state of Vermont.

We were concerned that an immediate move to Phase Two would open the possibility that students on campus who had been through multiple rounds of testing might be inadvertently interacting with these recent arrivals, which would pose an exposure risk,” he told The Campus.

Doucet said that, additionally, observations of other colleges and “evolving public health guidelines” led the college to push the start date. He also clarified that Sept. 15 was the earliest possible start date for Phase One, as opposed to a set date.

Only two individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 on campus, both of which were detected during the two rounds of arrival testing. Both of those cases are now listed as recovered, and there are zero active cases on campus after 5,362 tests. A few students have been asked to leave campus for violations of Covid safety rules.

Some of the freedoms that come with a move to Phase Two will include local recreational travel within Addison County and the use of student vehicles. The college will also begin phasing in limited indoor dining hall seating, limited use of indoor athletic facilities and student use of outdoor athletic spaces such as the golf course, Snow Bowl and TAM.

When using personal vehicles, students will be required to wear face coverings, keep the windows open at least two inches for ventilation and maintain physical distancing as much as possible.

Phase Two will also allow students to define a small social circle of individuals with whom they relax physical distancing. The announcement email notes that students will be allowed to have no more than four individuals with whom they are “close contacts”. 

A guide called Sex in the Time of Covid-19, published by the Health and Wellness office in August, noted that they “anticipate that any dating/sex partners would be part of this circle.” 

Students will need to complete another online training before being released from campus quarantine. Engaging in Phase Two activities without completing the training will be considered a violation.