As of Oct. 12, there are at least 32 active COVID-19 cases among students, all of which came from an outbreak that began before October break. The College opted not to require testing for students when classes resumed, and, with viral wastewater levels already rising, we anticipate that there will be a large spike in COVID-19 cases to follow. This increase, however, will be nothing in comparison to the amount of positive cases that could arise after Thanksgiving break, when far more students are likely to leave campus and travel across the country and world to celebrate the holiday.
This current outbreak could have been prevented with mandatory testing — and another, potentially larger outbreak following Thanksgiving break could be preventable, too. In order to mitigate potential spread and prevent increased restrictions, the College needs to test all students upon their return to campus in late November.
In addition to mandatory PCR testing after Thanksgiving break, the College should make rapid antigen tests more frequently available to symptomatic students anytime they need. According to CBC, rapid tests taken by symptomatic people in high-transmission areas are correct 80 to 90% of the time. Given the high level of accuracy under these conditions, having these tests more readily available for symptomatic students could stop the spread of COVID-19 sooner, as these students would not have to wait longer periods of time for their results.
The College is currently operating under Phase 2 on the Campus Activity Level scale, which the administration has used to assess the risk of COVID-19 on campus and evaluate potential next steps. With a continued spike in positive tests, the College risks entering Phase 3, which would include numerous enhanced restrictions. Under Phase 3, Peirce would shift to takeout only. Additionally, athletic competition may be suspended, informal indoor and outdoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and travel outside of Gambier would be limited to essential activities. If conditions become even more severe, Kenyon might enter Phase 4, which would require masking at all times — indoors and outdoors — and fully remote instruction.
Although it may become necessary to implement these enhanced restrictions, it should be avoided at all costs. The College is currently in a position to decrease the likelihood of a large COVID-19 outbreak following the Thanksgiving holiday, and they must plan for it now.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Jordy Fee-Platt ’22 and Linnea Mumma ’22, managing editor Amanda Pyne ’22 and executive director Joe Wint ’22. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.