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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.

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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