Navigating COVID for Fall 2021

Dear Brandeis Community,

We are eagerly looking forward to welcoming back a full complement of students, faculty and staff to Brandeis over the next several weeks. We’ve spent the summer busily preparing campus: our buildings and grounds are spruced up, our fall health protocols are in place, and we expect the return of a fully vaccinated campus community.

Given the recent rise in the Delta variant, this excitement is tempered by an undercurrent of uncertainty and caution. Our experiences living, learning, teaching and working will be different from what they were last fall - but they also won’t be identical to what we experienced in the fall of 2019.

As we prepare for another different kind of semester, we wanted to share the underpinnings of  our continuing approach to health and safety around COVID-19. You will also soon receive more information about a video check-in for staff on Sept. 2 at 10 a.m.

The Delta Variant

Delta has been noted for driving infections, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates, and for causing some “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people. We recognize Delta as a cause for caution and something that we are very actively monitoring. As a result, we have implemented an updated masking requirement for indoor settings, but at this time are still allowing rooms to be used to capacity, and not limiting numbers at outdoor gatherings, consistent with CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidance.

The evidence shows that the vaccines are highly effective, including against Delta. Our high vaccination rates, testing for COVID-19, improved building ventilation protocols, and mask wearing are all important mechanisms to enhance safety on our campus. As we have done with great success over the past year-and-a-half, we will continue to use public health guidance, data, and the unique conditions within our own community to guide our campus health policies and procedures.

A return to using personal judgment; an emphasis on compassion

For much of the prior 2020-2021 academic year, the lack of vaccine availability meant that very few of our community members were vaccinated. To keep one another safe, we needed to impose strict guidelines and limits on nearly all activities. Now, we find ourselves in a situation that is vastly improved, but fluid. While Brandeis continues to update its COVID protocols, students, faculty and staff will need to use their own judgment to make certain decisions, and to work cooperatively with classmates and colleagues to respectfully voice their own needs related to the finer points of operating together in the current environment.

We all may need to re-establish respectful ways of interacting in-person now that we will be together. The Support at Brandeis website and Reporting at Brandeis site provide connections to a variety of services for anyone experiencing difficulties in their work or learning.

Anticipate changes will be followed by...more change

It is impossible to say now when COVID, masks, and testing will be behind us or if we will need to implement different ways of keeping ourselves and our community healthy. As we have from the beginning, Brandeis will be guided by data, science, experts, and the needs of our community on how best to move forward. We remain committed to sharing updates with you as soon as we possibly can whenever changes are needed.

We know you share our enthusiasm for our students' arrival over these upcoming weeks.

Sincerely,
Carol A. Fierke, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Stew Uretsky, Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration
Raymond Lu Ming Ou, Vice President of Student Affairs