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COVID-19 Messages from President Katherine A. Rowe

An archive of messages sent from President Katherine A. Rowe about the university's plans and policies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. View the 2020 message archive.

W&M Plans for Phased Return

May 19, 2021

Dear W&M Faculty & Staff,

As we conclude a successful spring semester, I write to share plans for William & Mary’s return to in-person work and learning, through the summer and fall. The health and safety of our community remains our top priority. By proceeding in phases, we can adjust as needed to evolving public health conditions and federal and state guidance.

With pandemic continuing and vaccination rates increasing, it is important that W&M approach summer and fall systematically. Principles matter. So this email explains our rationale for returning employees who have been working remotely to our offices, classrooms, studios, labs, and other learning spaces, in person. It also outlines our approach to carrying forward the new kinds of efficiency and flexibility we have gained via remote work. I ask that all staff and faculty take time to read this message with care, and refer to the Path Forward website for updates.

Below my signature, I lay out five phases of transition over 14 months, with specific goals for each phase. These transitions begin with respite and provide for flexibility in the early stages of transition. To fulfill our value of flourishing, William & Mary as an organization needs to shift out of the state of crisis effort in which so many have operated, with so much dedication, for more than a year.

I know there will be questions as we move forward together. Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring and Chief Human Resources Officer Christopher D. Lee will hold an employee town hall in mid-June. More information will be shared in the coming weeks.

Listening to graduates ringing the Wren bell, it has been exciting to think about reconvening – rejoining one another in groups and working shoulder-to-shoulder again, as our community vaccination status allows. Transitioning to in-person operations as we move through the late stages of pandemic will bring fresh challenges. Yet, we’ve proven our ability to navigate change with perseverance and grace. We can’t wait to see you.


Katherine A. Rowe

Why return to in-person work and learning?

Intellectual community, learning in the company of others – these are the core components of our mission that call us back. The key verb in our mission statement is convene: “William & Mary convenes great minds and hearts to meet the most pressing needs of our time.”

Our students have made clear that the experience of college they seek is in-person, on our beautiful campuses in Williamsburg, at VIMS, and in D.C. The benefits of in-person learning for many have been thrown into stark relief by pandemic. For all of these reasons, William & Mary plans to be at full capacity for in-person teaching and learning in the fall. Our public health expectations will reflect that goal.

Gains we should carry forward

Whether working in person on campus, remote, or some combination of the two, our dedicated employees made this year possible for our students. Over the past year, we learned so much and we want to carry those gains forward. The ways we work and interact changed – with improvements in collaboration, efficiency, and flexibility that are important for staff, faculty, and the university as a whole. We adopted new tools and gained new fluencies. We formed new teams across disciplines and units. We expanded capabilities for remote and hybrid education, which will serve us well as we address the specific needs of those who cannot return to campus, such as international students still awaiting visas.

W&M’s phased return: now through June 30, 2022

Over the next 14 months, in the five phases outlined below, we will determine the appropriate modes of work to accomplish the mission of each office and academic function. Some of our employees have remained steadfastly on campus throughout the pandemic.  Yet, many of our faculty and staff have not worked routinely on campus since March 2020. So those employees and units will need to return in an intentional way. As you do, your safety and well-being will continue to be our top priority.

Cabinet members will assess the optimal work modes for different functions and disciplines, to carry forward gains in efficiency and flexibility we saw this year. Their goal is to identify appropriate kinds of flexibility that benefit the university and employees, while advancing our mission of teaching, learning, and research in a predominantly in-person context.

The Provost and Deans will share academic plans as the summer unfolds, and the Chief Operating Officer will communicate regularly with staff. As always, we will continue to adjust William & Mary policies to reflect Commonwealth and federal guidance.

Phase I – May 24-June 5: campus slow-down
  • Many employees will take their earned vacation during these slower weeks for the university. We have asked all supervisors to plan for such leave, assuming minimum staffing levels to maintain continuity of operations.
  • For those unable to use these weeks, supervisors should identify alternate weeks when you can take much-needed vacation.
  • We ask all faculty and staff to avoid sending evening and weekend emails unless the matter is truly urgent. (Find tutorials on “send delay” for Outlook and Gmail.)
  • We ask each of you to do everything you can to support and respect this needed slow-down – and to model it for each other. Taking vacation now will be essential for your well-being and success throughout the coming year.
Phase II – June 6-July 15: campus open for employees / remote learning / phased opening to public
  • Campus will be open for employees as needed and as appropriate to your work. You are welcome to use your offices, noting that masks and social distancing are still required indoors until W&M community vaccination status is established. Masks are not required outdoors.
  • Learning for the summer term will be predominantly remote. This allows employees who were directly involved in W&M’s public health response to return to pre-pandemic work responsibilities. It also creates the time needed for cleaning and facility renovations deferred for two years.
  • We ask supervisors to ensure that employees schedule time each week, without meetings or interruptions, for administrative tasks and catch-up.
  • We will begin reopening campus to the public in a phased way June 1 and will provide routine updates on the Path Forward website.
Phase III – July 16-September 1: begin to return to in-person
  • Functional units that have been working fully or predominantly in a remote format will begin to return in person.
  • Indoor mask policies will be announced, based on vaccination data.
  • July 16: Employee Convocation celebrating staff and faculty, on campus in Williamsburg.
  • Employees who have been working remotely generally should expect to shift their primary work location back to campus by September 1, 2021.
Phase IV – Fall Semester 2021: Predominantly in-person / Decisions on functional work modes overseen by Cabinet members
  • We expect faculty to be on campus during the academic year and most courses will be offered in person or in a hybrid format.
  • Mask requirements will be based on vaccination data, public health guidance, and prevalence of COVID-19.
  • W&M programs that are exclusively remote will remain so, and we will continue to provide online opportunities for our international students and others as we expand our reach online.
  • Cabinet members will oversee this period of flexible transition.
  • The need for exceptions to these standards and expectations will continue to be recognized over the next 14-month transition period until June 30, 2022.
Phase V: Spring Semester 2022. In person, with adaptations determined by Cabinet
  • Recognizing that our understanding of how different modes of work best meet our institutional mission, we ask Cabinet members to develop and communicate their longer-term understanding to the president and their units or schools by January 15, 2022.
  • Cabinet will make these assessments using four tiers of evaluation, in this order:
  1. What’s in the best interest of the university?
  2. What’s best for a functional area?
  3. What’s best for a specific role?
  4. What’s best for individual employees?
  • In addition, Cabinet members will focus on how William & Mary can create a work culture with a shared understanding of what’s reasonable to expect for individual employee flexibility on an intermittent basis.
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W&M Vaccination Guidance for AY21-22

May 18, 2021

Dear W&M Students, Staff, and Faculty,

I write to share William & Mary’s intentions with respect to COVID-19 vaccination. In recent weeks, many have asked about vaccination requirements. At this stage of the pandemic, clear guidelines are essential to our ability to plan ahead.

Our current data on the progress of vaccination among students and employees to date may be found at our Public Health Advisory blog. The good progress we are making on vaccinating our community is encouraging. Kudos to the outstanding efforts of our Williamsburg Clinic partners and so many volunteers from around the City.

William & Mary’s vaccine policy for the fall is shaped by our mission and goals, consistent with our pandemic response so far. The overriding considerations around which we plan are to protect public health and the safety of our academic community and neighbors. A key to our success so far has been that everyone in this community – faculty, staff, and students – has embraced the same requirements.

Given the scientific evidence to date, we have concluded that full vaccination is in the best interests of the health of our community. Once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given full biologics license approval of at least one vaccine product, William & Mary will require vaccination for students and employees. We will ensure appropriate religious and health exemptions, consistent with our usual practices and policies. Those who are already vaccinated with FDA-approved Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) vaccines will not need to re-vaccinate unless boosters are recommended for efficacy.

Guidelines for the fall semester will apply to all

In the interim, in order to maximize in-person learning and living at William & Mary in fall, while prioritizing safety, the following guidelines will apply:

  • All students, faculty, and staff intending to participate in in-person activities in Fall 2021 must provide proof of their FDA-approved EUA vaccination status by July 15, 2021.
  • All those who do not provide proof of full vaccination will be required to be tested prior to arrival and at minimum once a week upon return to campus, to mitigate transmission of COVID-19. Specialized activities and working conditions may require more frequent testing, as warranted, based on the recommendations of our Public Health Advisory Team.

We are taking these steps because William & Mary will be predominantly in-person next academic year. Programs that are fully online will remain so and we will continue to explore additional remote and hybrid learning paths in innovative ways. Yet students have been overwhelmingly clear about what they seek from their college experience at William & Mary: in-person learning and living, with the ability to convene as freely as possible on our beautiful campus. And faculty and staff have been clear that for many different degrees and fields, in-person environments ensure optimum teaching, learning, and research. Given the public health context that we anticipate for fall 2021, and given what we currently know about the science of COVID-19, our success next year depends on widespread vaccination.

In arriving at these policies, we relied on the opinion of Virginia’s Attorney General. We sought the advice of W&M’s Public Health Advisory Team. And we consulted with the leadership of W&M’s faculty and staff assemblies, and with peer institutions in the Commonwealth. 

Operational changes after July 15 will depend on reported vaccination rates

Given the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, we will update our Healthy Together Commitment and Path Forward guidelines by July 1. Per COO Amy Sebring’s message this week, masks are not required outdoors as of May 18. W&M supports anyone wearing a mask who wishes to. 

We will reconsider indoor masking requirements at William & Mary after July 15 when we understand the vaccination rates in this community. Note that the CDC’s recent update to masking guidelines relate to individuals who are fully vaccinated. As a community, we are not yet fully vaccinated.

Below my signature you will find information on how to report vaccination status and pre-arrival testing for the fall. For additional information on vaccination guidelines, including frequently asked questions, please visit W&M’s Path Forward website. 

Later this week, I will share a phased plan for return to in-person work and learning, aligned with current federal and state guidelines. 


Katherine A. Rowe

Report vaccination status and provide proof of vaccination
  • To provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, upload photos of the vaccination card you received when you were administered the vaccine. Kallaco Health & Technology has introduced the ability to upload proof in the Kallaco portal.
  • If you do not have a Kallaco account, create one by choosing “Forgot Password,” and do not use your W&M password.
  • Visit the Record section in Kallaco and follow the prompts to upload a photo of your vaccination card. Complete this upload process for each vaccine dose on your card.
Pre-arrival testing for those not vaccinated
  • Students who have not received a vaccination approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) will be required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test administered within 72 hours prior to moving into on-campus housing or participating in any on-campus activities.
  • Students and visiting scholars who have not received an FDA-approved vaccination and whose travel schedule will make it difficult to meet the above timeline will be asked to test negative for COVID-19 in the 2-3 days before they begin their travel and again when they arrive at campus. No quarantine is anticipated for international students and scholars as long as they test negative.
  • All students will undergo additional COVID-19 testing until fully vaccinated.
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Expectations for Spring 2021

January 14, 2021

Dear William & Mary Community,

I write to share William & Mary’s expectations for the spring semester, with planned adjustments that reflect current public health conditions. Through the break, staff and faculty have been intensively preparing for a spring semester that will be different. In early January, the United States is experiencing the fiercest spread of COVID-19 to date. At the same time, hearts are lifted by the vaccines being distributed to frontline healthcare workers and our most vulnerable community members – thanks to extraordinary efforts by scientists around the world.

Here is what has not changed
  • William & Mary’s goals remain: to do everything we can to safeguard our community’s health – transforming the campus and establishing shared norms and values – so that we can sustain our mission of teaching, learning and research.
  • We continue to make decisions in a phased way that allows us to move forward with the best data and scientific evidence available and adjust to changing public health conditions.
  • And we continue to offer as much flexibility as possible for our students, so each can choose the learning environment that gives them the best chance of success in this time of ongoing uncertainty.
  • Finally, we will communicate steadily as conditions change, creating as much certainty as we are able to.

From a successful fall, we know that campus communities can work, live and study together as long as we remain committed to protecting ourselves and others. On campus, that will mean re-creating our shared norms around mask wearing (indoors and out), physical distancing and other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. So too, actions taken off campus have an impact on the W&M community. For those in Williamsburg, a wholehearted embrace of our shared norms is needed wherever we are, on campus and off. At the beginning of the semester, outdoor temperatures will remain low in Williamsburg; we will spend more time indoors, and need to exhibit steadfast resolve. The W&M community is known for its conscientious care, and I’m confident in our commitment to one another.

Headlines for spring 2021
  • William & Mary is implementing every adaptation and adjustment that proved successful in the fall.
  • Anticipating that early winter would bring a pandemic surge, we have planned significant additional steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • In the fall, William & Mary succeeded in our goals to take care of each other, and to protect our community, because of the close partnerships we built within and beyond the university: partnerships with student, staff and faculty assemblies’ leadership; city and state health officials; colleagues at other institutions; and drawing on the expertise of our own people. Those partnerships remain crucial to a successful spring.

I ask everyone to read carefully our key updates for spring.

The Path Forward website is updated regularly, includes a detailed timeline, and is the best source for the most current information on:

  • Phased return to campus / phased return to in-person classes
  • Academic building access
  • Latest vaccine information
  • Adjustments to campus services, such as carry-out dining
  • Guidelines for student organizations

We launch the spring semester during a moment of deep uncertainty about the national public health picture in the coming months. So I am delighted to share that I will host Dr. Anthony Fauci for a Community Conversation on January 26 at 3 p.m. I encourage you to submit your questions regarding the national public health landscape for Dr. Fauci in advance. We hope to address the most pressing interests of this community in that conversation.

We also begin this semester at a moment of national reckoning, a moment in which many are deeply concerned about the future of our democratic processes. William & Mary remains focused on our responsibility to prepare the future leaders of our democracy, businesses and organizations. And we remain committed to providing a safe learning environment for debate, discussion and disagreement.

As we did in the fall, we are counting on each of you to help us navigate these unprecedented times. We are in this together. Your questions, feedback and insights help inform our path forward, so please continue to use the online form and we will endeavor to be responsive.

Your patience, dedication and creativity are William & Mary’s most powerful strengths, and we are enormously grateful.

– Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe

Phased Return to Campus

William & Mary is again phasing move-in and return to in-person classes, in order to de-densify campus and establish healthy norms from the start. The spring course schedule includes in-person, blended and fully-remote sections. The spring academic calendar is not shortened; we have adopted spring break days throughout the semester. Details are available in the spring calendar announcement and the University Registrar’s website.

  • New students, including transfer, freshmen and international students, as well as freshmen who studied remotely in the fall January 22
  • Returning freshmen and international students January 23-24
  • Seniors January 30
  • Sophomores and juniors February 6-7
  • Law School January 19
  • Full-time MBA, flex MBA, MAcc and MSBA programs January 25
  • Undergraduate classes begin remotely January 27
  • Graduate arts & sciences, marine science and education January 27
  • In-person and blended undergraduate classes begin convening February 10
Building access

The Law School will reopen to faculty, staff and students with card access beginning January 19. All other W&M academic buildings will reopen for use by students, faculty and staff on Thursday, Jan. 21. This includes expanded classroom access as student study space; no food or drink is permitted in these spaces. As a reminder, students must have a negative COVID-19 test before coming to campus.

Coronavirus Response
Vaccine information

The Virginia Department of Health is coordinating the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in the Commonwealth and is currently in Phase 1A. As VDH partners with William & Mary to develop distribution plans for our population, some 1A qualifying members of the W&M community will begin receiving doses this week. The Commonwealth has designated the bulk of higher education faculty and staff as essential workers in Phase 1C. William & Mary is partnering with our local health districts for vaccine plans and will announce details for faculty, staff and students as they are further developed.

Mask use

Masks will continue to be required, indoors and outdoors, in the spring, with some exceptions, including within dorm rooms and outdoors when proper distance can be maintained. Specifics are available on the Path Forward website. We anticipate continuing to wear masks even as vaccinations become more widespread. While the vaccines protect the inoculated individual, it is currently unclear whether they prevent the person from further spreading COVID-19.


At the launch of the semester, all dining options will be to-go only. We encourage students, faculty and staff to eat outdoors as weather permits. If positivity rates remain reasonable, W&M plans to transition to limited indoor seating with the start of in-person undergraduate classes on February 10.

Daily menus are available for review in the BiteU app that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play. For quick selection and reduced wait times, students can review before arriving. Students may also use the BiteU app for mobile-ordering at Marketplace, Cosi, Qdoba and Sadler Express.

Students may make eligible changes to meal plans by visiting before February 5.

Guidelines for Recognized Student Organizations

To ensure the health and safety of individuals and the collective W&M community, Recognized Student Organization (RSO) activities will continue to operate with a limited scope that promotes the Healthy Together Community Commitment. The established guidelines and expectations from the fall will continue as we begin the Spring 2021 semester. These are subject to review and change throughout the semester. We hope to be able to expand the scope of activity as pandemic conditions improve. More detailed information can be found on the Student Leadership Development website. The following are general guidelines:

  • A moratorium on all in-person RSO events and activities will be in effect between the time residence halls open and the start of in-person classes.
  • In-person RSO events and activities must have an event/activity plan in place that ensures safety for members and participants.
  • RSOs will be responsible for tracking attendance at all in-person events and activities (TribeLink and Mobile Check In are the recommended tools). Tracking through TribeLink will be required for space reserved through SUE Events.
  • A physical distance of 6 feet between participants must be maintained.
  • Facial coverings must be worn at all times.
  • No food or alcohol may be served, provided or consumed by RSO’s at organization events or activities.
  • RSOs will abide by specific limitations affecting meetings, activities and events.
International student self-quarantine

All students are advised to self-quarantine for 8-10 days before beginning their travel back to campus. Those students traveling from outside the continental U.S. must take their self-administered COVID-19 test once they arrive. They should allow for an additional 2-3 days of self-quarantine while they await their test results.

For students traveling by air, the U.S. will begin requiring a negative test result prior to boarding an airplane headed to the U.S., effective January 26. Visit the CDC website for more information on the new requirement. Students will be able to upload their negative test results in the Kallaco portal in lieu of taking W&M’s self-administered test.

Additional Measures

As in the fall, W&M is implementing a robust coronavirus testing program that includes pre-arrival testing as well as wastewater, prevalence and at-will testing throughout the semester. As a reminder, participation in the university’s testing program is mandatory; if you are contacted to participate in prevalence testing, you must respond.

W&M will exempt community members from pre-arrival and prevalence testing for 90 days after receiving a positive test result. To provide documentation of the positive, visit the Kallaco portal Records menu and follow prompts to Upload Record.


In response to a change in CDC guidelines, William & Mary’s Public Health Advisory Team has recommended a 10-day self-quarantine or isolation for those who test positive as well as students, faculty and staff who have been identified as close contacts.

Contact Tracing

William & Mary has also developed detailed contact tracing and case management systems that help students, faculty and staff navigate a positive diagnosis. The university additionally reserves Richmond Hall as dedicated quarantine & isolation housing for students and has overflow dedicated quarantine housing available, if needed, for those living on campus. For those who live off campus, the university has developed a resource guide. Find details at the Path Forward website. If you do test positive for coronavirus, please visit ReportCovid.

Healthy Together Community Commitment

One of William & Mary’s greatest strengths is our sense of community. As we face the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and plan ahead to mitigate risks, a commitment to community-wide actions is absolutely essential. Our ability to advance during this pandemic requires each member of the community, without exception, to comply with all COVID-19 related health and safety rules as articulated by university leadership generally and the COVID-19 Response Team in particular. Please visit the Path Forward website for more information about the Healthy Together Community Commitment.

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