Below is a general timeline of pandemic-related events at Merrimack from January 2020 through May 2021, with links to relevant items in the artifact collection and interviews in the oral history collection.
January 31, 2020
Following the World Health Organization’s declaration of a Global Health Emergency the previous day, the college sends out its first school-wide communication concerning what was then being referred to as the “coronavirus.”
Nicole Frisch-Scott on first hearing about COVID: "So the first time I heard about COVID, I was just returning from my honeymoon, and–my husband and I had been in Thailand. So when COVID first started, it started, obviously, in Asia, and we had just been there. And we came back, it was the end of January 2020, which was when everything was sort of starting to pick up throughout Asia. And so we were pretty nervous, that, you know, we might have been sick, or, you know, pick something up on the plane. But thankfully, we were both healthy. We got COVID tested, you know, relatively quickly. And so I felt comfortable being on campus and everything like that."
Kait Hollinger: "I actually very vividly remember the first time I heard about COVID. I was at my office and one of the classes that we have in the spring, in addition to our peer leadership course, is called 'Academic Entrepreneurship.' And it's for our students in Promise, and our other transition programs, who are on academic probation to help them build up their academic skills. So I remember, I was in my office just you know, working on something on my computer. And one of the students–the class was going to start, and I had my door open and one of the students was talking to the instructor and was saying, 'You know I don't feel well, I think I might have COVID.' And the instructor was like, 'You don’t have COVID, like don't be silly' and the student laughed, and this was January, probably. And I remember being like, what the heck even is COVID? And that was kind of just like a moment that came back in focus in hindsight, but at the time was just something kind of funny."
February 1, 2020
Massachusetts health officials announce the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the state.
February 26, 2020
The college announces a review of international programs and travel policies in light of the virus’s global spread, as well as the cancellation of the annual spring Pellegrinaggio trip to Italy.
March 2, 2020
President Chris Hopey announces the creation of a COVID-19 task force “charged with the responsibility, to the best of their ability, of closely following the developments of the COVID-19 virus, prevention, communications & outreach as well as response planning to advise the President on policies and decisions that ensure the safety of Merrimack’s students, faculty and staff.” Along with the announcement of the task force, the college announces it is suspending all study abroad programs in Italy and coordinating the return of overseas students, as well as the cancellation of academic and service trips planned for spring break.
Traci Alberti on joining the task force: "Several colleges in the area were starting to make decisions and announcements for closing their schools or transitioning to remote around that time....so you know the beginning of March, President Hopey put together a task force–a bunch of people, leadership and different professors with different backgrounds, other administrative staff with different areas of expertise through the college to serve on this task force that he put together to try to help us navigate–and I wasn't originally a part of that but somehow word got out that I was a clinician, and so I was then asked to join that task force so by the time spring break rolled around I was on the task force. The college closed for spring break–we were meeting daily at that point in time trying to figure out what would be the best scenario for the college."
March 10, 2020
Amid rising cases in Massachusetts, the college announces the extension of spring break by one week.
Kyle Templeton: "...I remember hearing about it in another class, in my environmental history class, and the teacher was like, 'Oh, like you guys might want to bring stuff home when you leave for spring break, like extra stuff because who knows if we're going to come back?' And that's what ends up happening, but yeah that was like the first time I heard about it, was like in class."
Sarah Ward: "So I was in my dorm room here at school, and I remember, I'm not sure about the specific first time, but I remember kind of when the school sent out the email about it and I think it was kind of weird because everyone just thought it would be like over in a week kind of thing, like when they sent us home for spring break like I didn't even pack anything. So I kind of ended up at home with no clothes and nothing. I just assumed it would be just a two week break rather than a one-week spring break. So yeah definitely it was hard to wrap your mind around like obviously nobody knew what it would turn into."
Cecelia Barron: "I was skiing with one of my friends from another school and we were all like kind of hearing about it. We didn't really know what it meant and then I remember, like the first like it started feeling real when like she–like her spring break got extended and then, like ours eventually did, too, but it still like wasn't like a big deal, I didn't think. I just thought it was going to be like a week-long thing and then we’d come back to campus but then obviously when the whole semester was canceled and the whole lockdown started, yeah."
March 13, 2020
The college announces it will be moving all classes online after the end of the extended spring break, with the initial plan to resume in-person learning on April 13, the Monday following Easter.
Diane Shaw on rapidly transitioning teaching and academic programs to remote: "...I think–so I think the initial reaction was overwhelming–wait, what? I mean it was just sort of like–how do we even? Where do we start? What do we do?"
Nicole Frisch-Scott: "It happened fast. So we had basically a week after spring break was extended to turn all of our courses 100% remote. And I had never done online teaching before....in that first transition in terms of the spring of 2020, the only thing that was really factoring into my decision is what I had time to do well. I didn't want to be fumbling over technology or figuring things out along the way, and having the student experience during a stressful time suffer even more. So I really took that week to try to determine what I could feasibly do so that I could tell my students, 'This is the plan. This is what we're doing.' And I wasn't going to have to change it moving forward."
March 23, 2020
Gov. Charlie Baker orders the closure of most non-essential businesses for an initial two-week time period and issues a stay-at-home advisory. These measures will ultimately be extended through the end of May.
Julianna DeLuca on being an essential worker during lockdown: "Honestly lockdown for me wasn't really lockdown because I became essential because I had to work during the pandemic. We all got called to the hospital to work–we all had you know, we had different like actual like acute care staff coming in because we needed the help so bad because we're getting hit hard so lockdown for me wasn’t really lockdown because I was constantly going to work and constantly helping you know fighting through this."
Nikala Tuffanelli on staying connected with friends: "I remember the whole car meetups thing in the parking lot with your friends–that was definitely a weird moment. We would just sit in the back of our cars and sit in a circle and just talk, we'd like to go when drive throughs opened up for food, we’d get food. I don't know–it was just weird like it was definitely a standout moment. I never thought I'd have to do that with my friends or I couldn't see my friends, or I couldn't really leave the house–it was definitely weird."
Cecelia Barron: "Yeah so the first lockdown-I feel like it was kind of nice of first just to be home...a little break until it was like–it started getting like really boring. Obviously we couldn't go anywhere. I remember, like me and my friends would go to the high school and sit in the trunks of our cars, yeah like far away. Yeah, it was like the most like social interaction."
Mack Emery on staying conditioned for hockey when gyms were closed: "...if you're not skating you're not in shape for hockey like there's no way to condition that will keep you in shape for like season, without being on the ice, so that really screwed us all over and like we worked out, but the people who weren't fortunate enough to have weight rooms or stuff in their house or have like a private one to go to, they were screwed. They'd have to put books in duffel bags and use those, like their–Coach Mike would have to make two different workouts one for people who had resources and one for the people who didn't–like I’d be doing stairs in my living room....Like I would go up my basement–I’d go up the basement I’d have to go through the living room and then up to the to the top floor and then down and then around and then back down. And it was carpet and then hardwoods so it was like, do I wear socks while I’m doing this and like risk slipping? Or do I wear shoes and like get the whole house dirty? And then I’d be done like in the middle of reps and my mom would be looking at me, literally drenched. Like, 'Mom, I’m sorry there's no other way I can do this.'"
Katie Donell on staying connected during lockdown: "My sister, one of my sisters, had a baby at the beginning of the pandemic in April, and we have pictures of her showing the baby in front of her front door, we couldn't go in, couldn't hold them until much later so some of that stuff was a little bit tricky but I think everyone in our family kind of just navigated on what they felt most safest to do."
March 23, 2020
Classes resume in online format. Though initially planned as a temporary measure, classes will remain remote through the end of the semester.
Sujatha Thiruvengadathan on the switch to remote teaching: "The pandemic became real when we got the email from school saying, 'Hey listen we're going to extend our spring break one more week. We're going to go remote.' We had to–the faculty had to really change our mode, so we had to learn how to Zoom. We had to learn how to do this and how to do that and teaching over Zoom was, I thought, beyond reach. Right, I was like, oh, my God, how am I going to read everybody's facial expressions and figure out who's struggling, who's not struggling?"
April 2, 2020
The college announces a pause on operational expenditures “that are not enabling remote teaching, ensuring the safety of the few students, faculty, staff who remain on campus; growing our enrollments (including new academic programs at the graduate and undergraduate level), or federally grant-funded projects.”
April 9, 2020
The college submits the “Certification and Agreement for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students” to the US Department of Education under the terms of the CARES Act. The college would ultimately receive and distribute over $1.3m from the initial round of CARES Act funding to 3,364 students.
May 5, 2020
The Class of 2020 commencement is postponed indefinitely.
Cecelia Barron: "I know when we had the pandemic–like so for the seniors, they didn't know that would be their last day of class like before–and that's just crazy[.]"
May 6, 2020
Gov. Charlie Baker’s order requiring face coverings in public places where social distancing is not possible comes into effect.
Sarah Dionne on her first time wearing a mask: "I remember it was weird trying to figure out how to get a mask and what was a mask, and so the first mask I ever wore was like a bandana tied around my face because that was the only thing we had in the house that we could really make up as a mask. I remember that was fine and then I think, the scramble to find masks, I remember where it was difficult–they weren’t really being mass produced, and so we were on Etsy trying to find these homemade masks but I remember it was a pink bandana that I had for–oh wait no, I think it was a skull and crossbones bandana that I, for some reason, had since college and I just dusted it off and used it as a mask until we could get real masks."
Kait Hollinger: "I remember the feeling I remember around the first few times, I was going into a grocery store that I put it on. And I remember just feeling like so, like there was so obviously something on my face. And so constricted and like, feeling like a lot of anxiety around it and not because- I didn't disagree with it. But just because I was like this is real. Like this is a real thing, that we don't normally do that now we do. And it- it felt really odd it, felt really odd to- I remember the first thing I noticed was I still smile when I see people even though you can’t see, I'm still smiling [covering nose and mouth with hands]. And that- that that feels really weird, like especially when you're interacting with a stranger. And you just like give a smile, just to say like oh go ahead whatever. I was just like this is so odd, like no one really knows what I'm doing."
Maxie Holman: "I don’t remember feeling weird about other people seeing me. I do remember feeling weird about not being able to see people's facial expressions because I'm a big non-verbal reader. I like–I love communication and how people communicate and it really bothered me that I couldn’t see so much of folks’ faces and–I know that I communicate a lot non-verbally and it helped me realize how often I don’t actually verbalize a 'hello' to people that I’ll often just like [smiles]--I will like smile or like [mouths 'hey'] without actually making a sound[.]"
May 18, 2020
Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan begins, allowing “manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship to re-open.” Phase 2, which allows “lower-risk” businesses and institutions to reopen with limitations, begins in June.
Gwyne White on what she was looking forward to reopening: "I was definitely pretty pleased when the parks opened back up. [laughter] That was great. I definitely was going, so I was going to a couple of isolated parks, with the kids anyway, because I was like, this - I will risk this. But, it was like a - like a very uncomfortable experience because I'm like I am literally risking my kids lives in the sort of like larger context for them to be able to play on like a slide and stuff. But, I was really pleased when that opened back up."
June 11, 2020
Phase 1 of the campus reopening plan begins, with approximately 197 employees returning to campus. The college distributes the first version of the symptom checklist and waiver required for access to campus.
See two examples of the symptom checklist and waivers in the artifact collection: Version 2 (August 2020) and Version 5 (April 2021).
Maxie Holman on what it was like to be on campus prior to reopening: "...we also didn’t necessarily know the timeline in which students were coming back, so it was almost like a ghost town too once everyone left because it was basically just Res Life, MCPD, and facilities and then some upper administration here on campus–and that was it....And we had to obviously go through the [residential] spaces because we went so quick, we had to go through the spaces to make sure they were functioning and okay. I remember walking through rooms and everything–it was almost like a movie. Like everything just froze. Like, people's stuff was still in rooms, beds were still made or partially made and I was like, wow, I feel like I’m walking through a movie!"
July 10, 2020
The college releases its plan for the return of students to campus in the fall, giving students the option of attending classes in person or remotely. The college begins refitting campus buildings and classrooms.
Megan O'Donnell on her decision to attend classes remotely: "A lot of my friends were doing it so I kind of didn’t want to go random if a lot of the classes that I had already signed up for were remote because I think like, only one of them was hybrid and the rest of them were remote so there was literally no point in taking them on campus if it’s online."
Laurel Barbosa on her decision to attend classes on campus: "The fall of 2020 I knew that I wanted to come back not only because I needed to be online–I couldn't be online anymore, I needed to be in the classroom–but also the socializing aspect of it. I needed to be with people. I couldn't be at my house anymore. I needed to be not with my parents 24/7 anymore, and I needed to get out of the house."
Gwyne White on her decision to teach on campus: "I hate online teaching. I had to teach a class online only in the fall because I ended up taking over somebody's class. And that was awful. I went back because I - at that point, needed to get out of the house. I have never been a person who was supposed to take care of tiny children full time. And I was going fully insane. So I was like, 'Get out of the house, I have to get out of the house!'
Sujatha Thiruvengadathan on her decision to teach in person in the fall of 2020: "...I think the factor that really made the decision easier was they said you're going to get tested every week. If the testing was not on campus, then I would have actually had to have a long discussion with everybody in the house because then the responsibility was me–on me as an individual to go get tested and, am I okay? Am I bringing it home to my loved ones? Am I risking everybody because I want to be with other people? So that would have actually come into play, but since they said we're getting tested on campus, I said this is a fantastic thing. I didn't have to think twice about it and there was no discussion. I made a decision and my husband and my child respected it and they said, 'Yep, this is what you have to do, this is what you have to do.'"
August 15, 2020
Faculty, staff, and residential students begin returning to campus ahead of the fall semester. Surveillance testing of the campus community begins, with tests administered by OnSite Medical and processed by the Broad Institute.
Traci Alberti, who oversaw the campus testing program: "Our testing center was in the gym so we converted our gym into–I believe it was five or six rows, five or six bays for testing. Then we had a whole staff. We hired a medical firm to come in and run the actual swabbing of testing. The tests were designed for patients to be able to swap themselves but early on in the pandemic President Hopey really wanted to ensure that we were sampling patients and employees correctly, so we had medical staff collecting the samples for our population so–and then at the end of the day when I was done with those, with responding to all the results from yesterday. The next day's results would start to roll in, and I would do it all over again."
Nikala Tuffanelli, who worked at the testing center: "Last year we'd have six lanes going at a time and basically the students would work the computers and then we'd register everyone in so we asked for their last name and their date of birth and then they would show us their Mack Card part and we just kind of confirm their phone number, their email, just so they could get their results....I would roll the test tubes and just kind of register people in, and then the people who did the swabbing would come out....I remember last year at first it was really weird–like students were kind of off put by it. They're like, 'Oh someone's sticking a tissue–or a Q-tip up my nose every couple of days.'"
August 24, 2020
Fall classes begin.
Julianna DeLuca on coming to campus in the fall: "So when I got back on the campus in fall 2020, I felt like more free in a way, like, I didn't have to log on to a computer and sit there for hours and I didn't have to, you know, do like a lot of work on the computer like I was. In a way it was like a big relief walking onto campus and actually seeing people–I mean you still see people with the mask on–but just like human interaction was better, you know. Rather than interaction through a computer screen like you actually got to see the person you actually got to hear their voice and like that was like ten times better."
Kyle Templeton: "Yeah I mean it felt pretty normal as soon as we were back, I mean. We had to wear masks everywhere, and that was strange, but like we still were good like we still had people over and like had fun and did the normal things we're supposed to do. It probably didn't feel normal until like this year when we didn't have to wear masks everywhere, and we can have parties and go to like sporting events and have intramural sports and do all the things that we like weren't allowed to do during COVID, I would say, took a whole 'nother year until it felt normal, which would be this year."
Cecelia Barron: "It was good, but like it was nothing like being on campus before, like everything was like totally different with the dining hall being mostly takeout and not being able to sit in there. And just like everything–all like the stuff that they had in place, like the testing procedures, which is obviously necessary but just–and then, like I said, not being able to go to your friend’s dorm room. It was just like not even close to what it was."
September 22, 2020
The college announces five positive tests among students living in Monican Centre. The following day, eleven additional Monican residents test positive. All 266 residents of the dorm are ordered to quarantine.
Monican RA Jordan Wentworth on experiencing the outbreak: "Yeah, so it was last fall. I tested positive and I had to sit in my dorm room for six hours waiting for a place to go in Royal because I could not go home. And having residents knock on my door when they needed something from me was very difficult not to answer because I didn't want to get them sick. I was one of the first five to test positive from the Monican dorm hall last year. So it made things very weird because, after the whole shut down at Monican happened–with it being like all over the news and everything–supposedly like there were news vans driving around Royal like trying to find people that had tested positive to like talk to them and everything."
Monican resident Nikala Tuffanelli on the outbreak: "It was honestly really scary. I remember I tried to call my parents when we first found out that we had gotten exposed, and then we found out Monican shut down, so I remember, I tried to call my parents, but the time change–they were at work, so they didn't answer. So I called my coach and I was like, 'I'm not really sure what to do,' and she offered me to stay with her, but I didn't want to put her at risk, so I remember both of my roommates were like, 'You can come home with one of us. Our parents said that was okay because if one of us has it the other one has it,' so they were really understanding. So I lived in my roommate Emma’s basement for a while and her family was awesome–they're super welcoming so that was really nice."
Traci Alberti on containing the outbreak: "So the very first outbreak was in September, and it was a freshman dorm. There's so many interesting stories for this, so again, I was seeing a little bit of a larger number than what I expected. I think initially it's six in the morning it might have been eight or nine and then by 7am it was 10 and I was like, 'Oh, boy.' So it was relatively something–a story like that–and I was texting one of the executive leaders like we've got a problem, like you know heads up heads up and so that person was in the shower, their wife alerted them. We were quick to respond that like, look, there's trouble in the making. A lot of these cases are coming out of this one dorm area, so we responded quickly. Leadership made a very quick and smart decision to lock that dorm in place. We also made a very quick decision to test everybody who hadn't already been tested on the way out and that really gave us a huge opportunity. We were asking everybody who was leaving that dorm to treat themselves as positive and to stay in quarantine. Having had those additional tests that really sent the message as we were kind of unfolding. I want to say that there were I think that there were over 100 cases that came out of that dorm, once people were even home and all of that kind of followed. It helped us really identify it and lock it down."
September 28, 2020
In response to the Monican outbreak, the college temporarily moves all classes online. In-person classes resume on October 7.
Sarah Dionne on the counseling center during the 2020-2021 school year: "So what's interesting is...we actually had really low numbers last year. And, and that was pretty common across the board at a lot of different institutions and I think the, like, hypothesis as to why was like just we were kind of living in this collective trauma, and so the idea of getting therapy just seemed too far removed–we're still just–we're in survival mode just trying to get by. Another theory is that life was just really crappy all around and so it's the idea of 'what's the point of going to therapy when nothing's going to change in the world?"'I think, prevented people from going, and so our numbers were really low. They have since significantly rebounded and so now we're seeing the impacts and so a lot of what we're seeing now [in fall 2021], those presented concerns are very much tied to the pandemic and COVID, but just in the moment just not feeling like they could do anything about the pain and the– isolation and the sadness and the fear that they were dealing with."
November 21, 2020
Five days ahead of the closure of campus, the college reports an uptick in cases among residents of the St. Anne apartments, prompting the quarantine of remaining students and the early closure of the apartments.
Gayle Ardito on the difficulties of contact tracing: "...once you found out there were, you know, once you've got positive cases you wanted to get them off of campus or into isolation as quick as possible to slow the spread of the virus. So getting in touch with students sometimes was difficult. I finally caught on and realized that they are much more likely to respond to a text than a phone call, so I would text them just saying, you know, 'This is Gayle from COVID surveillance, could you please give me a call?' And I would get a call within two minutes, but if I tried calling them three or four times it'd be no answer or their voicemail box was full or not set up so that was one of the frustrating things just because you just wanted to, you know, you had to get in touch with them, you had to find out who their contacts were and get all those people into quarantine, so I think that was a little bit frustrating."
November 25, 2020
Campus closes for an extended winter break.
Traci Alberti on the decision to close campus at Thanksgiving: "If you recall, we did close end of fall of 2020 for Thanksgiving. That was purposeful. We knew that we were very safe here on campus–the risk was always just going out to environments where people aren't frequently testing and don't know what their status may be. Exposures kind of going on that way that was much more of a common scenario, then, what was happening within our walls. We knew the greater risk once people were going home for Thanksgiving. Then the timing, to bring everybody back and then falling into finals and whatnot we knew that the best answer would be to let everyone go home and then stay home. Rather than risk trying to bring everybody back and then dealing with isolation and quarantine and all through finals. We did that on purpose."
December 11, 2020
The FDA issues an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It issues an EUA for the Moderna vaccine one week later. Distribution of vaccines begins on December 14.
Katie Donell on when she could see a light at the end of the tunnel: "I think, kind of, two things for me, is like when they announced that we could go back to work and when they said that they have the vaccine and that they were in the works, not only for adults, that they were in the works for kids because—I think, like I said, I really it's–I don't know how else we’ll get over this without vaccinating a lot of people."
December 27, 2020
Congress passes the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. By the summer of 2021, Merrimack would receive and distribute over $1.3m in emergency financial aid to 3,387 students.
January 11, 2021
Campus reopens. Eligible members of the Merrimack community–testing center workers, medical staff, and the MCPD–begin to receive vaccinations.
Sarah Dionne: "I think, once the vaccine started to become more widely spread, that's when I started to really feel confident. I’ve never been more excited to get a shot in my entire life, but once the vaccine became kind of more widespread, that's when I was ready to sigh a sigh of relief."
Gwyne White: "Aw dude, the vaccine. Yeah, that was–that was great. I have a picture of me on that day, and everything. It was pretty -- mm-hmm."
January 27, 2021
Residential students begin moving in for the spring semester.
February 1, 2021
Spring classes begin.
Diane Shaw on deciding to teach in person in the spring: "In the spring, I went into the classroom for a couple of reasons. Lots of students were asking for, 'Could we please be in the classroom?' And the class I teach for the psychology department was–everybody, well, I had 25 on the roster and I think 18 or so signed up for in person, if we could have it and six or seven had–needed to be remote. And, as it turned out, it really kind of flipped around the other way and other lots and lots of students were opting to do remote stuff without having declared they wanted to be remote. So, but being in the classroom was mostly because it was something that students really wanted and I thought it would be–yes it's again that contact in that relationship building that you have when you are in a classroom was missing so that was, that was the biggest thing, I think, that informed my decision."
Ashton Savage on working in student security in the spring: "I had a bunch of people that would tell me that COVID is fake or like that our rules don't make any sense and it's pretty much the parents, mostly and like residents of Andover that would come onto campus. The students were pretty fine, but everyone else basically thought that like I was the one who made these decisions and that it was like my idea and I could just like change it whenever I wanted to, but it was like Merrimack College's policy."
February 5, 2021
An unsanctioned party at the Royal Crest Apartments results in the quarantine and departure of students in attendance. The college requires all residential students to test the following Monday.
February 23, 2021
Four positive cases are identified in the Ash Centre dorms–all residents of Ash are required to temporarily remain in the residence hall except for testing.
Gayle Ardito: "Going forward, we really focused on the positive cases and what dorm they were from because then we could kind of see if there was three or four positives in a dorm, then the college could say okay, everyone in this dorm stay in place, get tested for the next couple days, and we can kind of identify any problems, so that didn't happen again."
Kait Hollinger on the Promise Program: "In the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 I definitely saw more outreach and need from our upperclassmen students, than our first years. I think, because our upperclassmen students knew what it was like before. And our first year students didn't, right? Like they obviously knew what school in general should be like, but this was their only college experience. It was, while not easy, there was less of that, 'but this isn't how it's supposed to be.' That was really hard for our upperclassmen students, especially our seniors."
Marissa Broome on working for the Promise Program: "When I first started that my hours were all online, so I was meeting with students via Zoom and everything–I held what they called drop in hours. My Zoom link was sent out to everyone in Promise, not just my caseload of specific students, and if they needed anything they could come in. I also had an hour workshop a week that went over a specific topic that first-year students were supposed to come to and that was completely online. Junior year as well I could go into the Promise Space, but that was also when we still had to wear masks and we had to be six feet apart from students, so for the most part I would be in the Promise Space working, but I would be meeting with students and holding my hours over Zoom. Now, that’s a little different–I can meet with students in person and hold my workshop in person, but yeah that’s kind of how it started."
March 16, 2021
The college announces plans to return to normal operations for the 2021-2022 school year in the fall.
Cecelia Barron: "...probably just coming back to school this year [2021-2022 school year]–like I felt like not having to wear a mask 24/7 and getting like our normal soccer season back and normal in-person classes, like that kind of felt like it was–even though we still wear the masks in class, I kind of felt like it was back to normal as much as it could be and probably after the vaccine. Once people started doing that and I felt like that was back to normal."
April 5, 2021
In response to an uptick in cases, the college begins requiring daily testing for on-campus students over the following two weeks.
Traci Alberti: "...we would respond by increasing our testing because the faster that we were able to identify cases–and we were so quick that we were able to identify cases a lot of the times before patients even started to experience symptoms, and that was the best scenario because if we identified the actual infected person before they were actually feeling symptoms, we could quickly figure out who they were around and who they had exposed and put those people in quarantine. And so we would be lucky enough on several occasions that quarantined people would be in quarantine and then they would test positive, but it would be two or three days after they've been in quarantine. So therefore that exposed person when they became infected did not infect anybody else because they were already by themselves in quarantine."
Nikala Tuffanelli on working at the testing center: "I remember at work it was always kind of scary because our boss would come in and tell us you know how many people had tested positive that week. I remember always being worried, I'm like, are we going to get kicked out again?"
April 19, 2021
Massachusetts enters phase 3 of its vaccine distribution plan, making all adult members of the Merrimack community eligible for vaccination.
Sujatha Thiruvengadathan on the vaccine: "I said, if it's for the greater good, you know, so and everybody in our family felt the same way, so we didn't have to argue about it with anybody in the house. We said it's not just about us, right? So it's for everybody, so we have to do whatever everybody has to be doing, and we all got vaccinated when we all got eligible."
April 19, 2021
The college requires that on-campus students test three times during the week.
Jordan Wentworth on the difficulty of enforcing Res Life policies late in the spring semester: "And I think towards the end of the semester last year, things started getting difficult, with especially the town of North Andover having limits get increased and the town starting to open things up more, but Merrimack still continued to just stay to what their rule was from the very beginning because they just wanted to keep things consistent and not having things change every day or every two weeks, because with COVID you never know what to expect on a day to day basis. I think people and residents were starting to get frustrated by it, because they realized that the town was changing, but the school wasn't changing. It made it difficult for us to do our job because it–when enforcing policy of having an over-occupancy or like some sort of COVID violation, the most common response we would get was, 'Well that's not what the town says.' And it’s like, 'Well, that's what the town says, but that's not what Merrimack says.' It was just very difficult trying to be able to be compliant with one another on what our policy was and like what the town had."
April 30, 2021
The college begins hosting vaccine clinics for students, faculty, and staff to distribute 1500 Johnson and Johnson doses. In May, the clinics are opened to remote students and family members of faculty and staff.
May 12, 2021
Spring semester ends.
Traci Alberti: "...when we returned in the fall of 2020 through the spring, when that semester ended in 2021 we did I think around 180,000 COVID tests that year academic year."
May 13, 2021
The Class of 2021 commencement ceremony is held.
May 14, 2021
The college announces a vaccine requirement for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Mack Emery on the vaccine requirement: "...I was totally for it. I would have done the vaccine regardless. It gives us a shot at getting back to normalcy so that's like yeah that’s a simple answer for me....Yeah, I mean I see the light, I feel like it's really just a matter of people getting a vaccine like, ding dongs not wanting it– it’s the reason why it's not, like we're not progressing to a normal like what we knew."
May 15, 2021
The Class of 2020 commencement ceremony is held, after a year’s delay.
Note: The timeline is in the process of being updated beyond May 2021.