Section: News

College tightens restrictions week before break, four test positive

College tightens restrictions week before break, four test positive

Students were tested prior to Thanksgiving break. | REID STAUTBERG

The College has received four positive COVID-19 tests in less than a week. Three of the new positive tests are students, who are now in isolation, and one is an employee. The College has received 154 test results in the past week, and 10 students are in quarantine after Knox Public Health (KPH) traced the close contacts of the positive students.

After one positive student test came back Friday night, President Sean Decatur sent out a News Bulletin on Saturday announcing that the campus would once again shift to a moderate level of alert. The quiet period will last through Nov. 25, when students leave for the semester.  

The Nov. 12 wastewater sample also showed that the virus level in Gambier has increased four-fold. According to Professor of Biology Joan Slonczewski, who chairs the Wastewater Testing subcommittee of the Public Health Working Group, this indicates that Gambier will continue to see positive tests. 

As in the previous two quiet periods, students cannot use common facilities such as the Lowry Center and study lounges, eat inside Peirce Dining Hall or have guests in their residences. In-person gatherings are prohibited as well. 

“I recognize that these enhanced restrictions are not easy and that it is especially disappointing to end our residential semester in this way,” Decatur wrote in the email. “But we believe they are a necessary precaution to keep our community — on campus, in Knox County, and in all the places our students will be returning to — as healthy as possible.”

Because of this uptick in cases, and to ensure flexibility in travel plans, Decatur sent out another News Bulletin Wednesday announcing that classes would be fully remote on Monday and Tuesday of next week. 

This comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise rapidly, both in Ohio and across the nation. Knox County alone has reported 184 new cases over the past two weeks, prompting the county to shift to a High Incidence alert status on Thursday. In addition, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Tuesday a new statewide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., starting this Thursday, which will last for three weeks. 

According to Smith, the College and KPH agreed to provide the quarantined students with tests on their 10th day of quarantine, though they will be required to remain in quarantine for two weeks regardless of their test results. 

Additionally, Smith said that students who have tested positive may leave campus for the break and complete their isolation at home, so long as they travel by a private vehicle, noting that public transportation is strictly prohibited for those who have tested positive or for close contacts in quarantine.  

According to Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, students in quarantine or isolation who intend to travel home by private vehicle must notify KPH, who will then contact the public health authority in the students’ home districts so that they can track the cases. 

Pre-departure testing will continue as scheduled through Nov. 20 to ensure that all students are tested for a final time before departing from campus. Smith said that students requiring a time-sensitive test due to their state’s travel restrictions could purchase one out of pocket from the Cox Health and Counseling Center. 

Initially, Smith said in an email to the student body on Nov. 1 that students remaining on campus over winter break would have to pay $100 per kit to receive a COVID-19 test from the Health Center. However, after discussing a proposal with Student Council Vice President for Student Life Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23, Smith has revised this policy: Students in residence over winter break will be tested once a month, free of charge. 

Bonham also mentioned that those who remain on campus will be moved into the North Campus Apartments, in order for the College to maximize its wastewater testing results. If the wastewater levels show any “significant increases” in viral presence, students in residence may be tested more frequently during the break, according to Smith. 

In a final email update to on-campus students, Bonham praised their conduct, crediting what she said was a successful semester to students’ adherence to College safety policies. “The success that we as a College have enjoyed is due in large part to your efforts,” Bonham wrote.

More information and ongoing updates about COVID-19 can be found on the the Kenyon College COVID-19 Dashboard, which is updated daily.

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