Section: News

College moves back to Activity Level 2, reports 88 active cases

College moves back to Activity Level 2, reports 88 active cases

The wastewater report demonstrates that 100% of active cases are the omicron variant. | COURTESY OF JOAN SLONCZEWSKI

On Wednesday, the College transitioned back into Activity Level 2 amidst a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases on campus. There are currently 88 active cases on campus, according to the College’s COVID-19 Dashboard, with 23 positive tests reported between Wednesday and Sunday and 85 positive tests recorded between Monday and Tuesday. 

Levels of RNA from dead SARS-CoV-2 in samples of wastewater from the Village of Gambier Wastewater Treatment Plant also increased sharply around early February, reporting that 100% of the cases were from the omicron variant. 

On Feb. 9, the College had shifted from Activity Level 2, or “moderate precaution,” into Level 1, or “baseline precaution,” following a decline in new COVID-19 cases on campus and in the surrounding area of Knox County, and made the decision to stop contact tracing due to its inefficacy in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Under the new Level 2 protocol, masks are required indoors with the exception of eating and exercising, in-person events can be held within the 85% target capacity and informal gatherings in residential spaces are limited to one guest per resident. 

Though students with COVID-19 typically spend their five-day isolation period at the Comfort Inn in Mount Vernon, that isolation option has reached its capacity, and many students who test positive must isolate in their rooms. This was also the case when cases spiked in the fall semester.

Despite such an uptick in cases on campus, Knox County does not appear to be experiencing similar problems. Cases in the county peaked in late January and have been steadily decreasing since then. As of Feb. 15, the daily average was 20 cases, with 42% of the county fully vaccinated. COVID-19 hospitalizations have also decreased, with approximately a 36% decrease in hospitalizations over the past 14 days.

According to President Decatur, the College does not expect to move up to Activity Level 3 anytime soon. 

“We are prepared with the key defense, which is vaccination and boosting,” he said. “Given that context, we are not anticipating that there will be a major change in course, or an additional level change of the College in response.”

However, recent studies have shown that the efficacy of the COVID-19 booster shots begin to wane after four months, but still provide protection against hospitalizations. The College’s booster clinic, at which many students received their third dose of the vaccine, took place in mid-November.  

The College’s next steps are unclear. “We will consider a return to Activity Level 1 when case numbers have stabilized at a low level, but we also want to avoid the ‘whiplash’ of rapidly changing guidance,” Chair of the COVID-19 Steering Committee Drew Kerkhoff wrote in a news bulletin email to students and employees on Wednesday.

A previous issue reported that nearly 60% of Knox County is fully vaccinated, while the correct number is 42%. The Collegian regrets this error. 


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