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COVID-19 Messages to Students

An archive of messages sent to William & Mary students about the university's plans and policies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. View the 2020 message archive.

Welcome and updates from CRT

January 25, 2021

Dear W&M students, faculty and staff,

Welcome back to the spring semester. As students return to W&M’s residence halls and campus activity increases, I write on behalf of the COVID-19 Response Team to reinforce practices that contributed to our success in the fall. This email also summarizes additional measures to mitigate COVID-19 at William & Mary this spring.

Coronavirus case numbers continue to surge nationally. The local and state landscapes are not much better. The Public Health Advisory Team continues to monitor health information daily, informing the university leadership as we operate under pandemic conditions.

One of the lessons we learned from the fall was that our shared commitment to protecting our community’s health allowed us keep positivity rates below that of other communities. So, under the current conditions, it is now more important than ever that we each maintain our diligence and support others in doing the same. Each student, faculty and staff member plays an important role in this effort. I’m confident we will build on the lessons we’ve learned and double-down on our health practices.

I have important updates in four areas today: Vaccinations, Reporting Violations and Concerns, After-hours Building Access, and the Healthy Together Community Commitment and Daily Health Check.


Phase 1A and Phase 1B

William & Mary is working with local Virginia Department of Health districts to identify W&M and VIMS employees who have job responsibilities that qualify them for vaccination in Phase 1A or Phase 1B. Many of our employees with direct patient-care responsibilities – such as those working in the Student Health Center or in dedicated quarantine and isolation housing – qualify for Phase 1A distribution and have already received their first vaccination. Police and other essential workers are eligible for Phase 1B distribution and we are working to get them scheduled for vaccines. If you fall into one of those categories, you will be contacted directly with instructions on when you can schedule your vaccination, should you choose to be vaccinated.

We will continue providing information to the local health districts on employees meeting job-related criteria for 1A and 1B vaccinations as more vaccines become available through the health districts and the City of Williamsburg, with whom W&M is closely partnered in this effort.

Phase 1C and General Population

The majority of faculty and staff members, because they work in Virginia higher education, qualify for the 1C distribution schedule. At this time, the local health districts have not begun offering vaccines to individuals in Phase 1C. We anticipate most of our students will be vaccinated with the general population following Phase 1C. We have not yet received information on the timing of vaccinations for either Phase 1C or the general population. We will update you as we know more.

We recognize that students, faculty and staff who do not qualify for vaccinations at present due to their job responsibilities at W&M may have additional circumstances that qualify them for a different phase of distribution. For example, students, faculty or staff members with underlying medical conditions or meeting certain age criteria may qualify for the 1A or 1B distribution schedule. At this time, William & Mary, as an employer, has been asked to forward information to VDH for those with job functions that fit into the early phases of vaccination.

If you believe you qualify for Phase 1A or 1B due to your age or underlying medical condition(s), you should follow up with VDH and your physician or healthcare provider. VDH has launched a portal to assess your status and sign up for vaccination alerts at VDH COVID-19 Vaccination Response. Click “Find out which phase you are eligible for” to access the portal.

As vaccines become more widely available, we will continue to work with our regional partners to advocate for access for those W&M students, faculty and staff seeking to be vaccinated.

Vaccine Requirements

Because the current COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed under an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, they are not currently required of any faculty, staff or students. However, in the future, when the vaccines are approved beyond emergency use, they may be included among the other vaccinations the Commonwealth requires of students who attend W&M or for employees. W&M will continue working with state officials on those determinations as more information becomes available.

Reporting Violations and Mutual Respect

William & Mary continues to monitor the [[COVIDConcerns]] email address for reports of instances of unsafe behavior in our community. You should feel empowered, as a student, faculty or staff member, to report persistent concerns; the COVID-19 Response Team refers the reports to the appropriate academic, student or HR department or division for investigation, follow-up and action, including discipline.

Let me stress the importance of non-judgmental stances with respect to reporting and compliance. William & Mary community members must strive not to shame others as we create shared norms and habits. We all make honest mistakes as we continue to adjust to living, working and learning under pandemic conditions; many of these can be addressed on the spot with a respectful reminder of the community standard. When you think that won’t work, please don’t hesitate to ask a colleague or friend for thoughtful support or report the unsafe behavior.

After-Hours Building Access

Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 27, some academic buildings supporting Arts & Sciences will be accessible to all students, with swipe access, for evening study hours. Monday through Friday, select buildings will be accessible from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Students may remain in the facilities until midnight, but will not be able to swipe in past 10 p.m. The William & Mary Police Department will periodically patrol the facilities during this time.

  • Tyler Hall
  • Tucker Hall
  • Morton Hall
  • Jones Hall
  • Integrated Science Center (except the third floor)
  • Blow Hall (third floor)
  • McGlothlin-Street Hall

Please note that not all spaces within a building will be available and that all university health and safety guidelines apply for after-hours use of these facilities. No food is to be brought in, ordered or consumed in these spaces. Masks that cover both nose and mouth are required, as is maintaining at least six feet of distance. Access to these spaces brings with it an obligation to sanitize the space when you come in and as you leave.

Healthy Together Community Commitment and Daily Health Check

W&M students are required to affirm their agreement to the Healthy Together Community Commitment again this spring. We are also requiring all faculty and staff to reaffirm the Health Together Community Commitment by watching a 10-minute video recapping the highlights from our video series this fall and again attesting to the commitment in Cornerstone no later than Wednesday, February 10. These will be available for faculty and staff in Cornerstone Learning no later than February 1; visit the “My Transcripts” tab to access the videos and agreement.

The Healthy Together Daily Health Check is available through the W&M Mobile app or m.wm.edu. We highly recommend that you continue to use it; however, we will not be requiring its use this semester. When we originally introduced the tool, general understanding of COVID-19, risky health behaviors and potential symptoms were not well understood. After six months, we recognize that we all have a much better understanding of the virus, so the mandated daily reminder is less useful. If you need a refresher or are concerned about potential symptoms, it may provide a first check to help you determine whether you need to modify your actions or reach out to a health care provider for a diagnostic assessment.

Please remember now that we are in the midst of winter and with spring allergy season on the horizon you should not attend in-person classes or come to campus if you are not feeling well.  Do not assume it’s only a cold or allergies. Rather, assume you may be infected and seek medical guidance before continuing to study or work in person. We want to make sure that you’re getting the care you need and that you are not inadvertently putting others at risk.

As a final note, this past weekend we welcomed new undergraduate freshmen, transfer and international students to move-in, along with freshmen who studied entirely remotely in the fall. We recognize that these students have been oriented to W&M’s health and safety protocols, but don’t yet have a successful semester under their belts in terms of our shared norms and expectations. They will be looking to all of us – students, faculty and staff – for guidance, modeling and mentorship. We know the first semester of college can be challenging and stressful for students under normal conditions – so much more during a pandemic! I know that we will all do our best to help our students develop the habits and norms that will help protect themselves and others throughout the spring semester.

Amy Sebring
W&M COO, COVID-19 Director

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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 mealplan.wm.edu 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 or provided 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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Return to Campus Testing - Spring 2021

January 8, 2021

Dear William & Mary Students, Faculty & Staff,

As William & Mary moves into a new semester, the COVID-19 Testing Coordination Team provides the following information on testing efforts for the Spring 2021 semester.

William & Mary is continuing to partner with the VCU Health System (VCUHS) for expanded medical services, including COVID-19 testing for students and employees. We continue to work closely with Kallaco on testing logistics, partnering with Clinical Reference Laboratory for return to campus testing.

In coordination with those partners and in consultation with W&M’s Public Health Advisory Team, we will continue to modify our testing program to reflect current public health conditions and use appropriate testing options based on the data and science available. For now, I write to provide an update on our current testing plans as we approach the start of the spring semester.

Student Testing

All students  living in campus housing or within a 30-mile radius of campus, who plan to attend in-person instruction or use university facilities, will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. The timing of initial testing depends on when a student has been approved to return to campus:

  • Students will receive an email 10 to 12 days prior to return asking them to confirm their order for a self-administered, mail-in saliva COVID-19 test kit prior to coming to campus.
    • Students must confirm the order no later than 8 days prior to their planned return to campus through their Kallaco portal in order for the test kit to be mailed. Test kits will arrive in time for students to self-administer the test, mail it back and receive test results before they are due to arrive on campus.
    • Consistent with current VDH and CDC guidelines, we recommend students self-quarantine for 8-10 days prior to arrival.
    • For the first 10 days after arrival, close contact should be limited to roommates or housemates.
  • Tracking information for returning the test to the lab is not available in the portal, so you will need to record the tracking number provided on the return label so you can track it through the FedEx website.
  • International students must send their test to a stateside address. They should plan to self-quarantine off campus while they await the results of their test (2-3 days). If they do not have a stateside address to mail the test, they can be mailed to and picked up from the Student Health Center at:  
William & Mary
Student Health Center
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate at home and the Student Health Center will work with you on your return to campus plans. You must also complete the form at Report COVID to initiate case management that will assist with isolation requirements and help you navigate classes and study.
  • If you are in quarantine as a close contact, you must finish your 10-day quarantine at home prior to returning to campus.
  • Similar to the fall, W&M will conduct mandatory prevalence testing (sampling at least 5% of the student body) weekly and census testing of the full student body based on guidance from the Public Health Advisory Team and our healthcare partners.
  • Students who experience symptoms over the course of the semester should make an appointment with the Student Health Center or a private healthcare provider for a clinical assessment and testing if necessary.
Employee Testing

As we did in the fall, employees in high contact positions that are not able to sustain masking, distancing or other health provisions due to the nature of their jobs may be required to test before the university welcomes returning students to campus. You will be notified by your supervisor or the Testing Coordination Team if you have been identified.

  • Voluntary at-will testing through VCUHS will resume the week of January 25 by appointment only. A reminder message with the link to book an appointment will be sent the week prior.
  • Mandatory prevalence testing (sampling at least 2% of the employee population) will continue weekly.
  • Employees who experience symptoms should make an appointment with their health care provider for a clinical assessment.
  • If an employee tests positive or has been identified as a close contact, they are also required to complete the form at Report COVID. They must remain off campus until cleared to return by their assigned case manager, who may ask for documentation from a physician or health care provider.
Testing Exceptions and Return to Campus for Individuals who Recently Tested Positive for COVID-19

Tests can continue to detect viral material in those who have previously tested positive after they are no longer infectious. Following CDC guidelines, W&M will exempt students, employees and dining workers from pre-arrival and prevalence testing for a period of 90 days after the date a positive test was administered, upon documentation of the result. To provide documentation of the prior positive test result, please visit the Kallaco portal Records menu and follow the prompts to Upload Record.

Will there be testing at the end of the Spring 2021 semester?

Depending on the timing of vaccinations, William & Mary may again offer voluntary testing for students and employees who wish to be tested prior to returning home for the summer. We are working with our local health district and will provide information on vaccines as information becomes available.

We will continue providing update information in the coming days and weeks. Thank you for your diligence and commitment to keeping William & Mary healthy together.


Amy Sebring, COVID Director and Chief Operating Officer

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