COVID-19 Updates

[Faculty & Staff] Reminder: preparing for our return for winter term

Publication Date

As you prepare for your well-deserved break, we write to thank you again for all of your efforts that led to the successful completion of a challenging fall term and to provide you with some updates on planning for winter term.

Upon completion of the fall term, the College reviewed our fall-term guidelines, practices and community compliance to evaluate what worked well and where there was room for improvement. Input and feedback from students, faculty and staff was a valuable part of this process. We learned a lot from the fall and will implement many of those lessons to increase the probability that our winter term can provide a safe and healthy environment for our academic and residential experiences. FDA approval of a highly effective vaccine and likely approval of a second bring real hope to what has been such a difficult time, but recent patterns of the pandemic, both locally and nationally, show that the coming weeks and months will require not just continued but increased care, vigilance and our mutual commitment to keeping each other safe and healthy.

While we all must remain prepared for plans to change at any time due to shifts in state and federal guidelines and health and safety conditions, the College will reopen on Jan. 4. Two highlights to note are that students will not return until Jan.7-9, and our first day of classes is Jan. 11.

We continue to ask those who are able to work from home to do so, especially the week of Jan. 4.

Winter Term Testing

  • Testing Center moving to Viniar Athletic Center - Beginning in January, the COVID-19 Testing Center will be moving to the Viniar Athletic Center. Individuals arriving for their test should report to the parking-lot side of the building and enter via the Viniar Athletic Center main entrance. This change will allow Memorial Field House, our largest facility on campus, to be used for socially-distanced activities for our students.

    • Testing hours will be 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

    • We will continue to use the Broad Institute as our testing partner

  • Weekly or Monthly Testing - Employees engaging with campus must be tested for COVID-19. If you expect to change the level of your engagement with campus, please work with your supervisor/manager to notify Human Resources at

  • Pre-arrival Testing - To help reduce the number of initial positive cases on campus, all students are required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to arrival on campus and must submit their negative test results at check-in.

  • Initial Testing - Jan. 7-9

    • All employees who will engage with campus (weekly and monthly testers) must be tested for COVID-19.

    • All students will be tested upon arrival on campus. They are currently signing up for initial testing dates.

  • Twice-a-week Testing Schedule - Jan.11-22

    • During this period of time, weekly testers (employees and students) will be tested two times a week.

    • This will be important to ensure that we promptly identify and isolate as many cases as possible upon returning to campus.

  • Weekly Testing Schedule - Beginning Jan.25

    • Testing appointments will be Monday through Wednesday beginning this week.

    • Weekly and monthly testing for all of winter term may be scheduled using the link below.

  • Click on this link to schedule your testing appointments

Health and Safety Protocols

  • Daily Health Screening - The College will continue using the emocha app and online portal to capture employees’ and students’ daily health screening.

  • Classroom Safety

    • In order to facilitate contact tracing and reduce the probability of quarantine in the event of a positive case, instructors must use a seating chart and take attendance at all in-person class meetings.

    • No food or drink should be consumed in the classroom.

    • Instructors must check emocha badges at the beginning of each class.

    • Following guidance from the county health department, we can no longer consider face shields alone an acceptable face covering. If you need a clear mask for pedagogical reasons, please contact Director of Academic Planning and Finance Greta Donato at

  • College-related Travel - The College will continue to prohibit all non-essential business travel. Please secure approval from your supervisor before making essential business travel plans.

  • Personal Travel - The College strongly discourages travel at this time. If you are considering travel for personal reasons in the United States or internationally, you will need to adhere to CDC, state and local health department guidelines for traveling and quarantine requirements during and after travel.

  • Visitors - Departments are responsible for securing approval from the relevant senior staff member or their designee in writing, managing approved visitors and ensuring communication about the College’s expectations and requirements.

  • Events and Field Trips - As in the fall, all off-campus activities (e.g., class field trips) require approval from the relevant senior staff member or their designee.

  • NYS Contact Tracing App - New York State has developed a contact-tracing app that uses Bluetooth technology to notify users if they have had close contact with someone who reports (via the app) a positive test result. It does not track users’ locations or identities (and therefore will not be able to tell users where or with whom they had contact) but simply notifies the user if a Bluetooth connection determines that they have had close contact so that they can monitor symptoms and consult with their healthcare provider.

    • In order to enhance existing statewide contact-tracing efforts and further limit the spread of the virus, we encourage Union employees and students to consider using this app. We each have installed the app on our phones and have found it easy to use, as have others on senior staff.

    • The app also provides useful data on test results statewide and by county.

    • Our IT security consultants have reviewed the app for privacy and safety concerns and are comfortable with its use. The only issue identified is that the use of Bluetooth technology consumes some battery power.

    • Please contact NYS, rather than Union’s ITS, for any technical questions about this app, which was not developed by or for Union College.

Isolation and Quarantine - Although the CDC has issued new guidelines for isolation and quarantine, please note that the New York State Department of Health has not changed its guidance at the time of sending this email.

We are grateful for your tremendous work and your continued commitment to the health and safety of our community. We hope the winter recess is an enjoyable one and look forward to welcoming you back in the new year.

Best regards,

Michele Gibson
Vice President for Administration and Finance

Strom Thacker
Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs