College of the Atlantic is committed to providing a safe, thoughtful, academically inspiring environment for our students, staff, and faculty. Together, with grace and empathy, we will co-create our community of human ecologists. We will adapt to the protocols and guidelines that come with our efforts to stay safe, and we will find ways new and old to communicate, connect, and create.

College of the Atlantic is committed to serving our students by using science-informed plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19, accommodate vulnerable members of our community, respond to incidents of COVID-19 infection, and protect each other and our community. We seek to limit the transmission of the virus through baseline and surveillance testing, isolation, quarantine, and a strong community commitment to physical distancing, wearing of masks, and other public health measures.

Review the COA 2020-21 Safe Campus Plan

Updated outdoor mask protocol

May 1, 2021

Based on rising vaccination numbers, declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and research showing that less than 10% of documented instances of transmission of the virus happen outdoors, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late April announced that whether fully vaccinated or not, people no longer have to wear masks outdoors when they spend time, walk, bike, or run alone or with members of their household. At the same time, the State of Maine removed its public health requirement that people wear masks when outdoors.

In response to the new guidelines, we have changed our campus protocol for wearing masks when outdoors:

  • When outdoors and alone or with people in your pod, masks are not required.
  • When outdoors and able to maintain physical distance from others not in your pod, masks are not required.
  • When outdoors and unable to maintain physical distance from others not in your pod, masks are required.

The CDC continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, and the State continues to require such action. Our protocols around wearing masks, physical distancing, and hand hygiene when in indoor spaces also remain the same.

Updates from the COA COVID-19 Response Team 

April 16, 2021

Vaccination records
Our system for collecting and storing vaccination records for members of the COA community is now up and running. Submitting your info will help us keep track of the percentage of our in-person population that is vaccinated while also serving as a data backup for you should you misplace your card. Please use this Google form to upload your vaccination information and a photo of your vaccine card once you have your final vaccinations (either the second shot of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or the single shot of the J&J vaccine). This information will be kept confidential.

Due to the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, we will be able to gather the in-person community for commencement celebrations this June. There are many details still to be worked out, but what’s clear at this time is that we will be pitching a large tent in the usual spot on the north lawn, under which all those from this year’s graduating class will have the option to gather. Those graduating will also be able to participate remotely, and the ceremony will be livestreamed on our website. We anticipate being able to include the rest of the in-person community either in the tent or on the lawn. Because of our ongoing protocols and the nature of our facilities, we will not be able to invite family, friends, and neighbors from outside of our COA testing bubble, even if they have been vaccinated.

Vaccine protocols on campus
As we approach the latter part of the term, we realize that many of you will find yourselves fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is such good news. You may be familiar with the US CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.

  • People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson [J&J]/Janssen).
  • Fully vaccinated people can:
    • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
    • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
  • Fully vaccinated people should continue to:
    • Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing

We ask everyone to continue to wear masks and keep at appropriate distance within classrooms, workstudy, and other “public” spaces on campus. We will continue to assess these protocols as we move further into the term and more of our community becomes vaccinated. We will also be reviewing protocols around student housing.

Our COVID-19 travel policy has been updated to reflect the CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals may:

  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.

Out of an abundance of caution, we ask that even if you are fully vaccinated, that you let COA COVID-19 Coordinator Deb DeForest know if you are traveling and that you schedule a COVID-19 test for the Monday of your return. There is no need to quarantine after traveling.

For those who are not fully vaccinated, non-essential travel is still prohibited, and Maine COVID-19 travel protocols must be followed.

Fall term
We anticipate requiring vaccination against COVID-19 for all students, staff, and faculty who will be on campus this fall. While each COVID vaccine is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration under what is known as an Emergency Use Authorization, these vaccines are expected to soon be granted permanent approval. Once that is done, we believe it is our ethical duty to require the vaccine. Having a fully vaccinated community should allow us to teach, learn, and practice human ecology as it is meant to be done. Masking and physical distancing should not be necessary. We should be able to look forward to sitting down to meals together again in our beloved TAB and Sea Urchin and to gathering together without concern.

We understand that there could be a very rare case where taking the vaccine is not medically advised, and we will work with anyone who falls into that category. We also understand that some students may have trouble getting vaccinated because of their geographic location, and our colleagues at the Mount Desert Island Hospital have assured us that we will have vaccines available on campus to get this population vaccinated upon arrival. There will be some degree of remote class offerings for students who are not vaccinated.

If you have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend that you reach out to your health care provider, or ask us to connect you with a provider in the Mount Desert Island Hospital system who could discuss the topic with you. We will also be scheduling an information session with some local providers within the next few weeks for anyone with questions.

This pandemic has asked much of many of us, and we have all learned a lot about access, accommodation, and personal responsibility. Our teams very much hopes to carry some of these lessons forward as we move into the new academic year.

COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 testing is an important part of our plan to keep campus open and have a productive winter term. Every member of our in-person community for winter term 2021 is required to participate in our testing program, including baseline testing for all at the start of the term, followed by weekly surveillance testing of a selected portion of the community to monitor the ongoing public health of our campus program.

View the COA Covid-19 Dashboard

Face covering considerations

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in the same household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Face masks are required in all common areas and classrooms on the COA campus.

Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, and are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.

Proper face masks include disposable medical face masks and cloth face masks or gaiters with at least two layers of material. Masks should be snug but comfortable against the sides of the face, secured with ties or ear loops, allow you to breathe without restriction, and should be able to withstand machine washing and drying and not get damaged or change shape.

Masks with exhalation valves or vents should NOT be worn, nor should bandanas. For more mask information, including laundering instructions:

Campus updates