Bowdoin College in Brunswick announced Monday that the first week of classes for the spring semester will be held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students are still asked to be on campus by Jan. 23 — the original return date — and classes will begin on Jan. 24 as planned. The decision to go remote is designed to ensure a fair start of the semester for those who are quarantined with the virus.

“We anticipate a large number of student cases, which means that a large number of students wouldn’t be able to attend class anyways that first week,” Bowdoin College COVID-19 Resource Coordinator Mike Ranen said. “So we decided for equity reasons we want everybody to be on the same kind of starting line with that first week of classes.”

New to this semester, cloth face coverings are no longer allowed, and students will instead be required to wear an N95 or surgical mask. Ranen said this decision was made after reviewing data about mask effectiveness. Masks continue to be required indoors except when eating or in a private office.

All students, faculty and staff are required to have received a booster vaccine by Jan. 21. There are 1,951 students enrolled at Bowdoin College this semester.

Students will take a COVID-19 test prior to and upon arrival, and a PCR testing center on campus will open on Jan. 24. This semester, students are required to test every Monday and Thursday. Upon arrival, students are asked to remain in residence halls as much as possible, pick up food to go from the dining halls and limit interactions with others.

“As you know, our decision-making over the last two years has been anchored by the goals of protecting the health and safety of our campus community and the broader Brunswick community and delivering an excellent Bowdoin education to our students in the context of the pandemic,” Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose said in a statement Monday. “We made decisions and choices with these goals in mind, driven by data and science, with an acute awareness of what we did not know.”

Bowdoin College reported 118 total COVID-19 cases during the fall 2021 semester. Of those, 93 were recorded among students and 25 among employees. The college reports that all infected community members recovered.

Ranen said he considers the past semester a success, as the college was able to avoid sustained outbreaks and was only confronted with two case spikes – the first when students return to campus and the second after homecoming.

As of Tuesday, the college was reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19 among students and 30 among employees so far for the spring semester. In total, 49 cases of COVID-19 have been reported through the college since the new year.

Statewide, COVID-19 cases remained high on Tuesday as the omicron variant of the virus continues to spread. In total, 155,155 cases of COVID-19 and 1,623 deaths had been reported in Maine. On Monday, hospitalizations in the state reached a record high of 403 patients.

At Bates College in Lewiston, students began arriving for the winter semester on Sunday. Classes begin Wednesday and will also be held remotely as students are tested for the virus. Masks, testing and booster vaccines are also required.

“We plan to return to in-person classes as soon as conditions on campus permit, which we hope will be early in the semester,” wrote Bates College Vice President for Campus Life Joshua McIntosh in a message to students on Dec. 29.

As of Monday, Bates was reporting 33 active cases of COVID-19 so far for the winter semester, made up of 22 students and 11 employees.

Colby College in Waterville welcomed students back on Jan. 2 for the college’s “Jan Plan,” a month long term that allows students to purse focused study, interning and research. In-person classes for the “Jan Plan” began on Jan. 4, and spring semester classes begin on Feb. 2.

There are currently around 1,500 students on campus, and as of Tuesday, the college was reporting 91 positive cases among students and 20 among faculty and staff.

“All students who have tested positive have been isolated, and the majority of cases are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The College is strictly following guidance from the CDC and other healthcare experts to ensure their quick recovery, and that they do not infect others in our community,” read a statement from Colby College to The Times Record on Tuesday.

The college requires all on campus community members to test three times a week for the first two weeks of the semester, and twice a week after that. Indoor masking and vaccine boosters are also required, and social or informal gatherings are limited to 10 people.

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