As of Wednesday, Sept. 22, Kenyon’s COVID-19 Dashboard lists six active student cases and four active employee cases. This is a precipitous decrease from the surge that the College experienced during the past two weeks; just last Wednesday, there were 57 active student cases on campus.
Wastewater data also shows declining levels of COVID-19 in the Village, though case numbers remain high in Knox County.
The decline on campus comes a week after the lifting of enhanced restrictions following campus-wide baseline testing. The restrictions currently in place primarily limit informal gatherings, while approved events are allowed to occur with up to 50 people outdoors, or at up to 85% capacity of indoor spaces.
Last week’s protocol change also instituted optional testing for vaccinated students, which they may access up to once a week. Students accessing optional tests use an Everlywell self-administered testing kit, as do the small percentage of students who remain unvaccinated, in addition to identified close contacts. Director of Health and Counseling Chris Smith said that as of Wednesday morning, 46 students had registered Everlywell tests.
Meanwhile, symptomatic students tested at the Cox Health and Counseling Center receive GnomeDX tests, which must be administered by a trained professional. Smith said this split between Everlywell and GnomeDX tests has allowed the Center to best optimize its resources.
While the situation on campus is improving, it is still severe in the rest of the County, to the point that Knox Community Hospital (KCH) has had to delay some elective procedures. According to a report from Wednesday, Sept. 22, Knox County has 390 active COVID-19 cases. As of last Friday, 31 county residents were hospitalized at Knox Community Hospital (KCH) due to COVID-19.
“It is not an overstatement to say that this most recent surge is testing many hospitals, KCH included, at the highest level yet seen in this pandemic,” KCH Marketing and Development Director Alice Hutzel-Bateson told Knox Pages. Staffing shortages have made the situation more difficult to handle, to the point where KCH has begun delaying some elective procedures.
Hurtzel-Bateson emphasized that most people hospitalized for COVID-19 at KCH and in Ohio at large are not vaccinated.
On campus, some restrictions remain in place, though Smith emphasized that they are not set in stone.
“Last year (2020-2021) lived in the space of either a quiet period or business as usual,” Smith wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Currently, with a largely vaccinated student population the guidelines are more grey; than black and white. We are currently developing a clearer set of step up or step down framework for campus operations.”
President Sean Decatur emphasized a similar sentiment. “It takes living with something for a little while to figure out where the things are that need to be fixed,” he said. “Student input in identifying where the things are that need to be tweaked or changed is important.”
Additionally, Smith said that the College has still not made a final decision about re-entry testing following Thanksgiving break, though students continue to advocate for this testing.
“The Student Council leadership would really like that baseline testing — because a lot of people are going to be travelling and we can’t stop that. So I think it will make people feel a lot safer on campus when [re-entry testing] does happen,” said Skyler Lesser-Roy ’22, Student Council safety and wellness chairperson.
Both Decatur and Lesser-Roy emphasized the importance of student input as the semester moves forward.
“There is no perfect science to coming up with the perfect set of policies for things and I know that there’s been feedback from students about details on places where the policy seems pretty broad and blanket,” Decatur said. “There’s some room for nuance to open up more opportunities … and the student input on that process is important.”
Lesser-Roy encouraged students not to feel discouraged by changing guidelines and at times limited information.
“People should be as honest as possible with how they’re feeling. I know that some people feel like the ‘admin’ is a sort of lost cause and no one is there. And I just want to say — within my role, whatever power that I do actually have, I do want to be able to hear students’ concerns and bring them to the right ears. Because you shouldn’t feel unsafe on this campus,” she said.