The college confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on campus, President Biddy Martin announced in an email to the college community on April 23.
“A custodial staff member received the news of the positive test results yesterday and is in isolation at home and doing well,” Martin wrote. “I know you will join me in wishing this individual a complete and speedy recovery,” Martin wrote. According to Martin’s email, the individual’s last day on campus was on April 18 and they had been asymptomatic at the time. Chief of Police John Carter has reached out to community members who have had direct contact with the individual; none of them have displayed any symptoms and are currently quarantining.
Martin did not release further details about the diagnosed individual, citing HIPAA and privacy concerns. “I ask that you please refrain from speculation and respect privacy. We will inform you if there are any further developments in this case that might impact the campus,” she said.
Following the announcement, Dean of Students Liz Agosto and Senior Associate Dean of Students Dean Gendron informed students living in Morris Pratt dormitory, one of three dorms housing remaining students on campus, that they would be relocated to other dorms for the remainder of the academic semester since this is the dorm where the diagnosed member of the custodial staff had been working.
“We are taking these steps in response to the confirmed case on our campus and in preparation should any students develop symptoms,” Agosto and Gendron wrote in an email to Morris Pratt residents. “We know that these steps will be disruptive to many of you and we do not take them lightly. We had hoped that we would not need to move into our plans for increased distancing. Our shared goal continues to be doing all we can to mitigate any further spread and to provide you all with the safest environment.”
Individuals who have been assigned to stay in Morris Pratt may request to relocate to a different dorm room as well.
Agosto and Gendron concluded their email by reinforcing the need to social distance and employ other common sense health measures. “We expect that moving forward students will wear face coverings when inside Val dining hall and anywhere else on campus when unable to maintain social distancing. We will be providing a few more masks for students and remind you that there are ways to make no-sew face coverings.”
“All previous expectations around social distancing, travel, gatherings and guests remain in effect,” Agosto and Gendron wrote. “As we have stated before, our shared goal is to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for the good of everyone in the community.”
The mass movement of students on campus has put some at risk. “People are getting in contact with each other, using the same [moving out supplies],” said Bruce Tsogt '21, a student living on-campus who is in the process of moving out of Morris Pratt. Tsogt is especially concerned, as he has a medical history of pneumonia and tuberculosis.
“It would be better if they could do the move out process in steps, so not all students would be outside of their dorm rooms at the same time,” he said.
Nonetheless, Tsogt feels fortunate given the circumstances. “I still have a job, an education to pursue, food and a place to sleep, so moving isn’t so inconvenient,” he said.
Martin closed her email with further recommendations to stay safe on campus during the pandemic. “For those students on campus, please be mindful of your health. If you develop a fever or cough, please immediately call Keefe Health Center,” she said.
“Hearing about a confirmed case on campus will add to stress and anxiety. Class deans continue to be available to all students,” she said. “Despite all of the precautions and actions we have taken, we may learn of other cases within our community. Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other, treat yourself and others with kindness and continue to safeguard the wellbeing of all with whom you interact.”
Zach is a managing news editor for The Student. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri and plans to major in biology before attending medical school. When not in the newsroom, Zach may be drinking iced coffee in Val, applying for internships under the name "Zachary" or eating his favorite foods, popcorn, chicken flavored rice and bananas.