On Friday, April 2, the College extended the ongoing quiet period following a sharp increase in student COVID-19 cases. There were 10 new positive student results last week, bringing the total number of student cases for the semester to 56. As of Wednesday, there are seven active student cases and 39 students in quarantine. There are two active employee cases, bringing the semester total to 30.
The College announced on Tuesday that it would host a vaccine clinic in conjunction with Knox Public Health today from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Lowry Center, which will offer Kenyon students the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The College has 1,050 doses available for student use, which Director of Health and Counseling Chris Smith believes will be “sufficient” to meet the need at Kenyon.
Furthermore, students who do not receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the College can do so through other vaccine distribution centers like Knox Community Hospital, since eligibility in Ohio has opened up to all people 16 and older. Many Kenyon students have already received their first doses of the vaccine.
“We’re hoping that this is a really great opportunity to get the vaccination coverage for our entire campus community,” Smith said, adding that he hopes the widespread vaccinations will put the campus in a “good space” as the semester winds down.
Even with the promise of mass vaccinations around the country, Smith emphasized the fact that the country is still “in an active pandemic” and students need to remain vigilant given the increase in cases on campus. While cases in Knox County remain high, Knox Pages reported that one in four Knox county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Kenyon’s latest wastewater report, released Tuesday, reflected this rise in cases, finding that levels of COVID-19 are still high in the Village and Kenyon. However, Decatur noted that the wastewater testing is not as up to date as it should be.
“The biggest concern that I have on [the wastewater] front is a timing issue. And I know that Professor [of Biology Joan] Slonczewski has been in touch with the folks that do the analysis to see what we can do on that front,” said Decatur. “But the lag in timing has actually meant that we’ve had individual test results back before wastewater results, and ideally, that should be the other way around.”
In mid-March, there were 10 new student cases, prompting a quiet period which was set to end on April 2. However, Director of Cox Health and Counseling Chris Smith said that an additional 10 cases detected between March 26 and April 2 raised the campus positivity rate to above 1%, leading to an extension of the quiet period. It is possible that the College missed some cases in the first few weeks of March, as only a quarter of the student body was tested each week for several weeks.
Smith said those additional 10 cases detected last week show that there is wider community spread at Kenyon outside of small groups of close contacts.
“There is also a new observance that we’re experiencing,” said Smith. “Some of those close contacts are also developing symptoms, and some of them are actually becoming positives themselves. That’s something we didn’t really see in the fall semester.”
Symptomatic close contacts led to a change in the way that the College is testing those in quarantine. Instead of testing quarantined students on the 10th day of their quarantine, close contacts are tested at the beginning of their quarantine and then incrementally throughout.
Furthermore, general student testing (which is now taking place weekly for the entire student body during quiet period) will now take place within a three-day window instead of over four days. This allows for student results to arrive by the end of the week, which Smith said will help determine if it is necessary to further extend the quiet period.
Smith hopes that the extension along with more frequent testing and vaccinations will help reduce the campus positivity rate and the amount of transmission. Smith is hopeful that the quiet period will be able to be lifted on April 9, should the campus positivity rate decrease to under 1%.