5Cs take measures to address post-spring break COVID-19 spike on campus

A tent stands on a field.
The 5Cs are reevaluating their COVID-19 policies amidst a spike in positive cases on campus. (Nanako Noda • The Student Life)

The rise in COVID-19 cases across the 5Cs following students’ return from spring break is leading 5C administrators to respond with several pertinent changes, some effective immediately. 

The Harvey Mudd College classes of 2020 and 2021 are set to return to campus this weekend for their respective commencement ceremonies, but current Mudd and 5C students have been asked not to attend the events in order to contain the spread.

Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe emailed the Mudd community Thursday afternoon with the announcement, adding that the president’s cabinet “feel[s] strongly that we should not cancel the ceremonies, despite the sharp uptick in positive cases.” 

“We know many of you have friends who will be on campus celebrating, but we need to ensure we are able to finish the semester successfully in person, including allowing our current seniors the opportunity to complete their required obligations regarding their clinic and thesis projects so they may graduate in May,” the email said. 

Visitors to campus — an expected 1,600 graduates and families — will be asked to provide proof of vaccination, as well as a booster, if eligible, when they arrive, or provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arriving on campus. Yellow wristbands will be given to identify those individuals who provided proof of vaccination or a negative test. 

All visitors will also be expected to remain masked unless actively eating or drinking but will be allowed to briefly remove their masks when taking photographs. There is an exception for those speaking or presenting at the ceremonies. 

Beginning next week, Mudd students will be asked to test twice weekly for COVID-19, an increase from the regular requirement of testing once a week. Students on campus are also expected to wear masks while indoors and strongly encouraged to wear medical-grade masks while outdoors. 

Klawe also asked that non-Mudd students refrain from eating at Mudd’s Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons to allow dining services to “focus on the needs of our current students and guests.” 

Cross-campus dining at the 5Cs resumed Feb. 26 after a two-year hiatus. Mudd has only allowed students from the other campuses to dine at Mudd for brunch over the weekends, although Mudd students are allowed to eat at the other colleges throughout the week at the respective allocated times. Although cross-campus dining is still permitted, Pitzer College’s McConnell Dining Hall closed indoor dining earlier this week in response to the case increase, reverting to take-out only.

Pomona College — which uncovered 28 cases this week, as of Thursday — said it would respond with increased to-go meal options and more outdoor seating, while the Motley Coffeehouse leadership team at Scripps College pushed the cafe’s grand opening from April 1 to April 8, saying they expect a large crowd for the event. The Motley will still, however, begin serving its much-awaited signature drinks on Monday.

“While we anticipated a spike in cases, the numbers at this point are a bit larger than we expected,” a Thursday update from Pomona’s COVID-19 Planning and Response Group said.

Despite the climbing number of cases, Claremont McKenna College lifted its indoor mask requirement, now expecting its students to only wear a mask in indoor classrooms but not in residence halls or its own dining hall. 

Both commencement ceremonies at Mudd will be livestreamed for those who cannot attend or choose to attend virtually. The ceremony for the Class of 2020 will begin at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, while the ceremony for the Class of 2021 will begin the same day at 2:00 p.m. 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the last semester of many students of the class of 2020, as well as their commencement ceremonies. Mudd was set to hold the class of 2020 commencement ceremony May 17, 2020, but postponed an in-person ceremony to a later date. 

Stanford professor and artificial intelligence expert Fei-Fei Li will still be the commencement speaker for the class of 2020’s ceremony this weekend. 

The commencement speaker for the class of 2021 commencement ceremony will be UCLA professor Safiya Umoja Noble, co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry.

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