Bates Loosens Masking and Testing Policies

Bates will not require asymptomatic testing or masking in most places on campus, the college announced on Tuesday. Associate Dean of Students Blake Reilly and Student Outreach and Support Specialist Brenna Callahan sent the email to students, effectively ending many of the policies that have dominated campus over the past two years.

Campus will be mask-optional in indoor and outdoor spaces for all students, according to the email.

“The only planned exception to this is that masks are required in healthcare facilities on campus, including Bates Health Services, Bates Sports Medicine, and Counseling and Psychological Services,” the college wrote. “Please note that faculty will have the ability to require that students wear masks in their classrooms and other teaching spaces at their discretion.”

All students are required to be fully vaccinated and boosted, which aligns with last year’s policies. The email did not state whether faculty and staff will now be required to be vaccinated; last year Bates was the only NESCAC school that did not require employees to get the vaccine.

Students are expected to participate in pre-arrival Covid-19 testing within 48 hours of their departure, the email stated. During the semester, asymptomatic students will not be tested. If students do start displaying symptoms of Covid-19, testing will be available at Bates Health Services and will be conducted “at the discretion of medical staff.”

If a student does test positive for Covid-19, they will be required to isolate for at least five days and wear a mask in all indoor spaces for 10 days from the day of the positive test, mirroring last year’s policy. 

The email also shared information about the MPX virus, commonly referred to as Monkeypox, which has been on the rise in the United States. 

“We are closely monitoring the developing situation with the MPX virus,” the email stated, continuing, “The MPX virus is primarily spread through very close contact with a symptomatic person, including skin-to-skin contact and sexual intimacy. It is not a respiratory illness and thus does not present the same risk of broad contagion typical of Covid-19 or influenza.”

The Covid-19 restrictions from the last two years being lifted signals a marked change in the social and academic life of students. Incoming seniors in the class of 2023 are the only Bates students on campus who have experienced college life without the previously held mandatory testing and masking.