Administration to Loosen Covid-19 Policies After Thursday’s Self-Test Results

Masks have not been made optional since the fall of 2021 at Andover.

In an email from Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington, he announced several updates on Andover’s Covid-19 and masking policies. On March 21, students returned to campus from spring break, marking the start of the 2022 Spring Term. Students were required to self-test upon arrival and tested again on Thursday. Kington indicated that if test results remain favorable, the school will loosen Covid-19  restrictions, including indoor masking and dormitory room visit policies. 

“We will mask indoors through Thursday, March 24. If testing results and local conditions remain favorable, we will loosen Covid-19 restrictions starting Friday, March 25. These include moving to mask-optional in all spaces on campus for students and adults (employees), allowing off campus permissions, and welcoming visitors to campus (masked indoors),” wrote Kington. 

Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, explained the reasoning behind this decision. The decision was based on the “up-to-date” vaccination status of the community and Covid-19 statistics of Massachusetts.  

 “With our entire community ‘up-to-date’ with their vaccination (having received the booster) and the current data in our region, we feel that we will be able to lift a number of restrictions that we have had in place. We hope to have mask-optional expectations indoors, allow room/dorm visits for day and boarding students, and open up permissions for off campus travel,” wrote Elliott in an email to The Phillipian.

Elliott continued, “We hope it will be much more like the spring of 2019! That is our goal. And, we will keep the health and safety of our community as our top priority, and we will shift course anytime we feel that we need to be more cautious. Providing students at home tests is newer for us, and we hope it was helpful for students who had difficulty accessing tests in previous terms. We have felt that this practice has helped us ensure a safe re-entry through a more user-friendly and expedient process.” 

In an update from Medical Director Amy Patel on Wednesday, seven students tested positive for Covid-19 between March 4–23: five students tested positive at home over Spring Break and two students tested positive on campus. The positive rate is considerably low compared to that from Winter Term.  

With self-tests exempting students from acquiring Covid-19 tests at local test sites or pharmacies, many students are favorable to this decision. William Suh ’24 commented that the self-tests provided a solution to his previous difficulties obtaining tests at local sites during the winter term. 

“It’s definitely become more lenient towards these [Covid-19] protocols because they are being lifted way quicker than any previous term. Also, the self-reporting system is way more lenient than having to go to sites and get tested. I was having a lot of difficulty getting a self-test at the beginning of winter term and this helped me so much for not going through all of that again,” said Suh. 

Suh also expressed both excitement and concern about lifting indoor masking. As an indoor athlete, he thinks that the new policy will bring much comfort to practices and games, but might pose a potential danger campus-wide as masking policies become increasingly lenient. 

“As a student, it’s great. Obviously, the masks have been very frustrating in class, sports, everything in between on campus, but that’s on an individual level. For the overall good of the school, I could definitely see some issues regarding the leniency of the masking policy. Although I think it is the right call, there are definitely risks embedded. If the test results are good, I can definitely see how the school is trying to return to normal in a safe manner,” said Suh.

Elliott conveyed thanks and gratitude for the community’s continued cooperation and the efforts of the school’s health care providers. She hopes that a safe and positive community continues to last. 

“We are thankful that our community is healthy and safe; we are grateful to our care providers who have kept us safe; we are amazed by our community’s diligence, patience, support, and cooperation over the past two years. It has been a long, tiring, frustrating, and hard stretch. We are relieved to be in a better space, and we hope to enjoy it while it lasts,” said Elliott.