On September 1, Bryn Mawr College announced a shift from their screening period directly to Level Two of the Bi-College Mitigation Plan, a plan which outlines four levels of operations for Bryn Mawr and Haverford College based on COVID-19 risk factors. Level Two limits essential indoor gatherings to ten people and limits indoor group activities, including dining, visiting in dorms, classes, and athletics.
During move-in in late August, Bryn Mawr had been operating under screening period protocols, which were stricter in some aspects than the Level One guidelines in the Mitigation Plan, but relatively relaxed compared to Level Two guidelines. Level One allows in-person classes, some indoor dining, some indoor gatherings, and visitation between Bi-College dorms. Level Two started on September 8, the first day of classes for the Bi-Colleges. Because the Bi-Colleges only released the plan after move-in, on August 31, many students arrived on campus with unclear expectations of the colleges’ COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
Many were surprised when, on Sept. 1, the college announced that they would bypass the original Level One protocol and shift directly to Level Two. A message from Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy announced that off-campus travel and gatherings without physical distancing or mask usage during the screening period had triggered the shift in protocol. Students living in dorms are expected to only leave campus for emergencies, while off-campus students can only come on campus for academics and work. Level Two protocols are currently scheduled to be in operation from Sept. 8 to Sept. 14, after which date the college may consider transitioning to Level One.
Between August 16 and Sept. 4, Bryn Mawr administered 1,042 COVID-19 tests and only one student tested positive. Bryn Mawr plans on testing students once per month regardless of symptoms, as well as faculty and staff who volunteer to be tested. Under Level Two, Bryn Mawr may conduct additional tests once every ten days.
Misinformation about the severity of Bryn Mawr’s shift in protocol spread following a TikTok video made by a Bryn Mawr student which had over 78,000 views as of Thursday, Sept. 10. The TikTok features a first year student crying and lip-syncing accompanied by the text, “Bryn Mawr College bragging about their zero covid cases because they physically imprisoned their students until November with no warning therefore sacrificing the mental wellness of their entire student body.”
Unsubstantiated speculations about Bryn Mawr’s handling of COVID-19 have simultaneously circulated on social media, with some characterizing the escalated health protocols as a “lockdown.” According to President Cassidy’s email, as well as the college’s mitigation plan, the direct transition from screen period protocol to Level Two is a preemptive response to current student behavior, which the college deems to be insufficient in mitigating risk.
For more detailed information on Bryn Mawr’s current situation and the difference between Level One and Level Two operations, please read this article from The Bi-College News.