On Friday, Oct. 9, the College recorded a fourth positive test result for coronavirus on the COVID-19 Dashboard. The College also confirmed one on-campus case of the flu as of Monday.
This most recent case of COVID-19 is attributed to a College employee who sought a test after suspecting exposure, according to Director of Cox Health and Counseling Center Chris Smith. While residential students are tested once a month, employees, faculty and staff are only tested at the beginning of the semester, according to Smith.
“All College employees should not be tested again — won’t be tested again — until the beginning of the spring semester,” Smith said. “We offered the one-time testing, and then if people think they’ve been exposed, if they develop symptoms, we typically direct them to a local public health authority or a medical provider.”
Smith called the situation a “fluke,” as College employees would not be able to seek further testing at the Health Center this semester. “Before we were able to get them clear guidance [on what to do], their office had COVID tests remaining, so they just took one,” Smith said, referring to the employee who tested positive. He did not elaborate as to why employees were only being tested once per semester.
The College Dashboard states that there have been four positive test results and one recovered case. The College has received 4,390 tests to date, 290 of which were received in the last week. As of Thursday, 11 students were in quarantine, which is up from one student on Monday. Increased levels of the virus were also detected in the Gambier wastewater on Oct. 8, according to a News Bulletin sent out Thursday.
Ultimately, Smith acknowledged that the success of the College’s COVID-19 plan in preventing an outbreak depends as much on luck as it does on adherence to health and safety protocol. “I think we have a solid plan and we’re executing that plan to the best of our abilities — and a large portion of it is luck,” he said. “We know that students are still going to Walmart, they’re still going to Kroger, they’re still going to other places where they could be exposed. So we’re really getting lucky.”
In order to prevent the confounding of flu and COVID-19 outbreaks, the College decided to require flu vaccines for all students in residence this semester. Students are being given their vaccine free of charge as they go in for their monthly COVID-19 tests.
In previous years, the Health Center has typically charged $18 for the vaccine, which covers the wholesale cost. “Hopefully we’ll keep this going for years to come and this will be a good thing that comes out of COVID for the campus,” Smith said, noting that a free vaccine makes it accessible to students who may not be able to afford one.
Regular COVID-19 updates will be posted to the College’s COVID-19 Dashboard.