On July 22, Provost Andrew Shennan emailed the College community with updated COVID-19 guidelines for the 2022-2023 academic year. The new protocols included optional weekly testing at the College Club and optional masking on campus, with the exception of classrooms and in-room isolation for those who test positive. Wellesley Covid Action was founded because many high-risk, chronically ill or disabled students felt that the new policies did not adequately protect their safety.
“Our primary concern is just protecting the well-being of immunocompromised siblings on campus. There are quite a few people who are immunocompromised, who may not share that because that is personal,” a student representative said. “Vaccines sometimes are not really effective. Some [siblings], because of other medications, can’t use Paxlovid or something like that. And for them, COVID is a really huge risk… they are at risk of a very severe illness, which can put them in the hospital, which can kill them.”
Currently, Wellesley Covid Action has implemented several student-run initiatives to protect immunocompromised students and encourage responsible practices with regards to COVID-19 at Wellesley College. They are running a volunteer food delivery service for those in isolation, an anonymous COVID-19 dashboard for students to self-report test results, an overall COVIDovid-19 policy survey and a rapid test donation drive. The anonymous dashboard is intended to serve as a voluntary replacement for the official dashboard run by the College until this fall.
“Self-reporting was an idea that previously came up with other disabled students. For us, the COVID-19 dashboard was a way that we could gauge the relative safety of going to class or going to events, because we could tell the community level, so we could know the risk of engaging with other people. When that was taken away, we kind of lost that gauge,” the student representative stated.
Another representative mentioned that they had not noticed the gaps in the College’s policy until they themself tested positive for COVID-19.
“When I got sick myself, I actually noticed all of these glaring holes. It was really hard for me to get a rapid test. It was really hard for me to get food from the dining hall. There are no to-go boxes other than the green ones. Dining hall workers have complained to me about how COVID-19 positive students will use the Ozzi boxes and just return them, which is dangerous for the workers,” they explained.
The same representative added that the changes to academic policies, particularly stricter attendance policies, have made circumstances difficult for students who test positive and close contacts. Thus, many students are avoiding testing so they do not miss class.
“I think Wellesley’s move to move past this pandemic and become more rigorous is very regressive and counterproductive,” they added.
Beyond the initiatives Wellesley Covid Action is running, they have also released a document titled “Recommended Best Practices for Covid-19”. The practices they recommend include masking, even when it is not mandatory, opting in to testing, reporting results, getting booster shots, informing others when they are close contacts and quarantining until testing negative. They also encourage hybrid events and choosing well ventilated locations for in-person events. Wellesley Covid Action believes that “Covid safety and a fully operational campus life are not mutually exclusive; rather, Covid safety expands the potential of our full student body to flourish.”