The message below was sent to OWU students and employees, announcing COVID-19 requirements, practices, and protocols for the beginning of Spring Semester 2022.

Dear OWU Campus Community,

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season, staying healthy, and refreshing yourselves for the new semester ahead.

In the fall, the safety precautions and practices we followed enabled us to enjoy a complete, in-person university experience, with classroom interaction, artistic events, formal and informal social gatherings, and a full athletic season, including NCAA tournament appearances. 

With cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant on the rise, Ohio Wesleyan is implementing the spring campus safety plan outlined below. We will open the campus in-person and as scheduled for the semester.

COVID-19 Booster Requirement

Our vaccination rates were the primary reason for the limited number of COVID-19 cases on campus this past term. During fall semester, only 2% of OWU’s vaccinated students tested positive for COVID, while 28% of students who had an exemption from the vaccination requirement tested positive at some point. Now, the emergence of Omicron has led to uncontained outbreaks at other higher education institutions, including those with vaccination requirements.

With the rise in Omicron-related breakthrough cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on December 9 updated its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines, with a preference for people to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna). Guidance from the CDC recommends that “everyone ages 16 and older can get a booster shot” as an important additional layer of protection against the Omicron variant.  

Ohio Wesleyan is requiring all students and employees who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster to receive their booster shot by January 14 or as soon as they reach eligibility. If you are eligible to receive a booster, please schedule it before traveling to OWU. We need to take every precaution to keep our campus community safe. 

Also, please remember that we have scheduled an on-campus booster clinic with Delaware Public Health for January 14, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Again, however, we urge everyone to receive the booster vaccination before returning to campus. Please go to this site and use the code flucovid2021 to register for a booster shot appointment. You will receive a confirmation email once your form is processed.

The CDC indicates that individuals ages 16 and older are eligible for a booster dose 5 months after completing a Pfizer series, 6 months after completing a Moderna series, 2 months after receiving a Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, or at least 6 months after completing a WHO-approved vaccine such as Sinopharm, Sinovac, or AstraZeneca. To determine when you are eligible, check your vaccination card or document to find the date of your final dose of the initial vaccine series.

When students receive their booster, they must update their COVID-19 vaccination records and upload their vaccination cards at this site. All students who update their records with the date of their booster shot by January 14 – or within one week of their earliest date of eligibility – will receive a $10 voucher for use in one of our on-campus dining venues.

OWU employees must update their COVID-19 vaccination records showing their booster dosage and upload their vaccination cards into ADP by January 14 or within one week of their earliest date of eligibility.

Procedure for Arriving on Campus

  • Upon arrival – before going to any residential building – all students must check-in at Hamilton-Williams Campus Center. Building access and meal plans for residential students will not be activated until the check-in process is completed on arrival. Students will receive an email next week from the Residential Life Office providing further instructions regarding check-in, along with a link to sign up for a check-in date and time. Commuter students will also need to follow this check-in process to ensure all students are tested as they start the semester.
  • All students, regardless of vaccination status, must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test (antigen or PCR) taken within 48 hours prior to arrival or be tested upon arrival. Providing proof of a prior negative test result will speed-up the check-in process and provide you with the opportunity to isolate in a more comfortable environment at home should you receive a positive test result.
    1. If you take a test at home, you must provide a copy of the test result with your name on it, or a photo of your at-home result with your photo ID included in the photo, when you arrive at the HWCC check-in table.
    2. If you take a test upon arrival at campus, please note that your OWU account will be assessed a $100 testing fee. You will be able to immediately apply to be reimbursed for the complete fee.
  • Students who are symptomatic should not return to the university until they are symptom-free and have received a negative viral test within 48 hours of arrival.
  • Students who test positive upon arrival must return home to isolate if they live within a 3-hour drive of campus. Students who live farther away will be able to isolate on campus, if necessary.
  • Students who are currently in isolation/quarantine at home are not allowed to return until they have passed the CDC-recommended isolation and quarantine period and until cleared to do so by the university. 

COVID Testing on Campus

  • We will continue weekly PCR testing of all unvaccinated students and employees (those who were previously granted exemptions from the vaccination).
  • During at least the first three weeks of the semester, a random sample of vaccinated students who have not yet received a booster also will be tested.
  • We will continue testing student-athletes, following NCAA guidelines.
  • We request that all employees perform at-home COVID tests if they are exposed to large crowds or other high-risk situations during the upcoming semester. 

Additional Campus Safety Protocols

  • As we begin the new semester, we will continue to require masking in all non-residential public spaces, including academic buildings and classrooms, administrative spaces other than private offices, and athletic facilities.
  • For at least the first two weeks of the semester, masking also will be required in public spaces of residential buildings, including lobby areas, study rooms, and dining facilities. Students also must wear masks when visiting in other students’ rooms. Students do not need to wear masks when in their own rooms with their own roommates. After two weeks, we will reexamine this practice. I know this is an additional sacrifice, but the very high transmission rates we have seen with the Omicron variant require additional measures to keep our campus community as safe and healthy as we were in the fall.
  • Events must remain under 50 people in size unless an exception is provided by the president, provost, or a vice president. Any department or organization holding an indoor group event larger than 50 people must provide a written plan for how they will enforce the mask mandate.
  • Any department or organization coordinating a travel event must provide a written plan for how they will manage the safety concerns of anyone who becomes symptomatic while on the trip and how they will safely get the group home to minimize the risk of transmission. The plan must be approved by the provost or vice president who oversees that department. For student organizations, the plan must be submitted to the Student Involvement Office for approval by the dean of students’ office.
  • For athletic competitions, all guests will be required to wear masks, and family groups will be required to socially distance from each other.
  • Students planning to travel or study away this semester, such as at the New York Arts Program, should follow updates on the International and Off-Campus Programs website or contact Darrell Albon, Director of International and Off-Campus Programs. 

Our campus community truly came through in the fall, and though some events had to be canceled or postponed, our on-campus life was fulfilling and fun, with robust classroom experiences, artistic performances, athletic seasons, and more. With Omicron, we will have new challenges, and depending upon the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community and on our campus, we may need to pivot during the semester. However, I believe we can come together with respect and concern to have a spring semester that is safe, healthy, robust, and fulfilling for all students.

I look forward to seeing everyone back on campus in January.