College Ends PCR Testing Program, Vaccine Mandate

On April 12, the college announced that, in addition to ending its Covid vaccine mandate, the Testing Center will be closing its doors, marking the end of a long-standing policy of on-campus, on-demand PCR testing.

College Ends PCR Testing Program, Vaccine Mandate
The college’s decision to end its PCR testing and vaccine mandate follows the Biden administration's decision to allow the current public health emergency to expire on May 11. Photo courtesy of Amanda Huhmann.

The college announced two major changes to its Covid-19 policies — the end of both the vaccine requirement and the college’s onsite PCR testing program  — in a community-wide April 12 email, signaling a return to near-normalcy on campus after over three years of Covid-19 restrictions.

The email — signed by the Health Readiness Group (HRG), which advises the president and senior staff on Covid-19 health and safety protocols —  explained that community members will no longer be required to have the Covid vaccine, or any boosters, effective immediately. However, it noted that the college still “strongly recommends” that community members remain up to date on future Covid vaccines.

The Testing Center will be closing its doors Friday, June 2, marking the end of on campus, on-demand PCR testing, which has been available since fall 2020. The email explained that the college will work to provide at-home antigen testing to community members, but in the meantime, antigen tests will continue to be available in the lobby of Keefe Campus Center.

These announcements come after several semesters of diminishing Covid-19 restrictions on campus, with the mask mandate notably being lifted in November 2022.  

Chief Strategy Officer Kate Salop, who is a member of the HRG, further clarified the context around the decision to halt PCR testing.

“These decisions were reached within the context of the federal government’s decision to end the Covid-19 national public health emergency on May 11 and the Broad Institute’s decision to end its testing program (of which we have been a part since the very beginning of our testing program) this June,” Salop wrote in a statement to The Student.

Graphic courtesy of Stormie King ’25.

Dr. Emily Jones, medical director of Student Health Services, noted that, despite PCR testing being halted on campus, students will continue to have access to PCR testing through the college’s partnership with UMass Amherst, if necessary.

Jones added that, from a public-health perspective, the college feels the vaccine requirement is no longer necessary.

“Unlike earlier on in the pandemic, receiving a Covid vaccine is mostly protecting the individual and less the community as a whole,” she said. “Those who are continuing to follow CDC recommendations, and are receiving all the vaccine doses for which they are eligible are still enhancing their protection against severe disease and hospitalization independent of the vaccination choices of others.”

Salop said that if health and safety concerns arise, students and faculty should rely on the strategies they have used throughout the pandemic.

“We encourage students — and all members of the community — to pay attention to their health. Anyone who is symptomatic should wear a mask and immediately test for Covid-19,” Salop said. “Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 should continue to isolate according to college protocols.”

At the moment, no community members have replied to The Student’s requests for comments on the changes.