As the Brandeis community heads into the first week of in-person classes, community members continue to voice concern and confusion surrounding the return of students to campus and the University’s policies to combat COVID-19 and its highly transmissible variant, Omicron

When University administrators announced that the first two weeks of classes would be remote in a Jan. 7 email to students, faculty, and staff, students were given the option of delaying their return to campus if they preferred to attend remote classes from a different location. While this decision has given students greater flexibility in regards to travel and scheduling, it seems to contradict other efforts by the University to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as testing students who are on campus and quarantining them when needed in the first two weeks of the semester while classes were remote. 

Especially since some students did not return to campus until the weekend before in-person classes began, this board is concerned that students’ option to delay their return to campus might cause a surge in COVID-19 rates just as we all return to in-person activities. To avoid the increased risk of COVID-19 spreading after many students travel back to campus for in -person classes, the University should have required students to return with enough time to isolate if need be. The rationale behind this system that allowed a delayed return is unclear, and this board requests better communication from Brandeis administration about why certain COVID-19 policies such as this are adopted moving forward. 

Another COVID-19 related policy that caused some confusion for students was the testing requirement for students prior to returning to campus. The University required all students that live on-campus to submit a COVID-19 test (either rapid or PCR) 24 hours before departing to return to campus for the spring semester. Although Brandeis provided a form for students to request a test kit if necessary, most students were expected to find a test on their own, despite at-home test shortages throughout the country. This board recommends that the University send test kits home with students before long breaks in order to simplify the testing process and to remove any financial or logistical barriers for students to get tested upon returning to campus. 

Although the University is not requiring that students have a particular kind of mask for classes, administrators are strongly encouraging community members to wear high-quality masks like N95s, KN95s, or KF94s, per a Jan. 26 email to the community. This board would like to remind students that in the coming weeks, certain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens will start to have free N95 masks in stock. You can check which Walgreens locations are currently offering free masks on their website, and their list will continue to be updated as more stores receive masks.