Andover entered the green zone, or the lowest Covid-19 transmission risk zone, on Monday afternoon, according to an announcement sent by Medical Director Dr. Amy Patel and Jennifer Elliott ’94, P’22, P’24, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students. With zero Covid-19 cases in the seven days before the announcement made on October 18, Andover has relaxed many regulations set in place against the spread of Covid-19.
In this new protocol, masking is optional in classrooms unless teachers require it, students are permitted to enter the common rooms of each others’ dormitories, and fully vaccinated students may more easily leave campus for both overnight and day excuses. This is the first time Andover has reached the green zone since the pandemic began.
The Andover community has not had maskless spaces for all individuals since the winter of 2019-2020. Elliott voiced her enthusiasm for the new shift in guidelines, while acknowledging the concerns of community members.
“I’m excited that it is an indicator of the health of our community and that our systems seem to be working and keeping our kids and our community members safe. And I’m super grateful to the team at [the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center] for all the work they’ve done in order to make that happen. I recognize that some members of our community feel uncomfortable with the new masking expectations, and I want to do everything we can to try to take care of our students and adults who are feeling like that,” said Elliott.
Although masks are currently optional in spaces such as the dormitories, classrooms, Paresky Commons, and Susie’s, students are still required to mask in the Cochran Chapel during All-School Meeting, Sykes, the Addison Gallery, and at the circulation desks in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), according to the announcement. The green zone additionally brings about more food options available at Paresky, a return to pre-pandemic day and overnight excuse permissions, and the authorization for students who are not fully vaccinated to be able to go to downtown Andover. As of October 18, 97 percent of Andover employees are fully vaccinated and 99.2 percent of students are as well.
Students new to Andover both this year and last year have not attended a maskless Andover. This environment is unfamiliar to students such as Isaiah Harris ’24, who discussed his positivity regarding the new guidelines, attributing it to the campus staff working against Covid-19.
“I think we’re ready for it because I feel like the staff and everyone have done an amazing job in keeping us safe and making sure that everybody is healthy… I feel like it’s a step in the right direction for all of us, and it indicates that we’re one step closer to being normal again,” said Harris.
However, not all students are as confident in the shift to the green zone. Others are wary regarding the extent of the freedoms offered, and where it might lead the campus in terms of potential spread of Covid-19. Adelaide Morales ’25 demonstrated concern for the change in rules right before Family Weekend, an event that brings significantly more people on campus.
“I am a little nervous that campus is going to become worse than the risk we started with. There are so many students leaving for [Family] Weekend and breaks during Winter Term, exposing the campus more,” wrote Morales in an email to The Phillipian.
Families coming to campus this weekend, as well as all visitors, must mask at all times in indoor spaces, according to the announcement. The administration has other safeguards in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 this weekend.
“As we plan for the weeks ahead, including Family Weekend this weekend, we will continue our multi-layered risk mitigation protocols, including hand hygiene, sanitization and disinfection, ventilation and air filtration, and symptom monitoring,” wrote Elliott and Patel in their announcement.
Some students are indifferent about the change after getting used to the stricter Covid-19 guidelines. Though masking is optional, many students such as Sara Romai ’23, have decided to still wear their masks indoors. Romai emphasized that she is comfortable with the shift, but has decided to mask for the time being.
Romai said, “I think it’s great that people can unmask everywhere, it’s obviously a lot easier. As of right now I’m still wearing my mask just because I feel like I just want to wait a little bit until we see how this goes and then afterwards, I don’t know if I’m going to stop wearing it or not but we’ll see what happens… I don’t think I’d say I’m nervous. I think the vast majority of the school is vaccinated, so I think I’m mostly just wearing a mask because I’m already used to it so I might as well do it.”
Despite this being a big step towards the typical, pre-Covid-19 campus life, Elliott warned that this transition may not be completely smooth. According to Elliott, students and faculty should take advantage of the newly returned freedoms and adjust when necessary.
Elliott said, “I anticipate that we’ll have to go back to yellow at stretches during the year—I don’t think this is going to be a linear progression at all. So I think we just need to be prepared to adjust as we have and enjoy spaces where we can. I’m really excited for students to be able to reconnect with family members this weekend but also kids being able to go home. That has felt like a huge hole for a number of our kids, and we want to be able to accommodate that.”
“I also think for our Seniors who are trying to make decisions about college applications, it’s really helpful for them to be able to get off campus and visit. So I’m excited for kids to be able to have those opportunities again. It’s been really hard, in the last year and a half, to have to take away a bunch of those opportunities away from our kids,” continued Elliott.