CHESTERTOWN — Students in one of the residence halls are in quarantine for up to 14 days due to a cohort outbreak of COVID-19, Washington College announced in a news release Tuesday, Feb. 16.
The quarantine went into effect 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12.
The dorm, which houses male and female students, has been reclassified to the campus Red Alert level. All students in the dorm are on mandatory quarantine, said Kelley Wallace, the college’s public and media relations director.
According to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard, at the Red Alert level the campus is effectively locked down to essential activities only. Students living on campus should follow quarantine-in-place protocols.
Wallace said the decision to quarantine students was made in partnership with the Kent County Health Department and following guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of Maryland.
A cohort outbreak is defined as five or more related COVID cases within a 14-day period.
In the last several days, there have been a total of 11 positive COVID cases, all linked to one residence hall, according to Wallace.
Some of the students were symptomatic and others were identified during mandatory biweekly surveillance testing. Wallace said the one thing they all have in common is they live in the same dorm.
She said there has been no further spread.
Because the outbreak is confined to a specific residence hall, the college continues to operate at a Yellow Alert level overall.
According to the COVID dashboard, at the Yellow level the campus is on alert that risk factors are trending higher.
“This does not mean that the virus is uncontrolled, but it does mean that counts are trending in the wrong direction and it’s time to increase compliance to our health and safety protocols. Failure to do so will likely necessitate heightened campus restrictions,” the dashboard reads.
At the Yellow Alert level, the Washington College community should continue to wear face masks both indoors and outdoors and continue to observe social distancing (6 feet or more apart) both indoors and outdoors.
Wallace said the mandatory quarantine is in effect in order to stop the spread of the virus through the rest of the dorm and to prevent further spread on campus.
While the 11 students who have tested positive were quickly moved into the designated isolation housing per established protocols, the remaining students in the affected dorm were potentially exposed to the virus prior to the first positive test due to the congregate setting.
Students were given the option to return home for the quarantine period, or remain in place in the dorm.
Wallace said there were 42 students in the dorm at the time of the outbreak. As of Tuesday, there were only about 15.
About half of the students who did not test positive opted to go home, she said.
Students who chose to leave campus were required to complete paperwork that provides details on where they will be for their quarantine and acknowledges that the family members in the residence are aware of and accept the risks associated with having contact, according to the news release.
Any student leaving campus is required to quarantine for a full 14 days and must provide a negative COVID test result from within 72 hours of their return date.
Until cleared, on-campus students in quarantine are to remain in their suite. Meals, mail, library materials and other necessities will be delivered. They can sign up for daily outdoor exercise, which will be done under the supervision of college staff.
All students who remain on campus for this quarantine will be tested twice — Tuesday, Feb. 16 and again on Friday.
Health Services staff will administer and supervise each test.
According to the news release, students who are quarantined on campus may be able to clear quarantine sooner than Feb. 25 with a second negative test.
The visitor policy for the spring semester states that permitted visitors to campus are those whose presence is essential to the operations of the college. Wallace said this could include, for example, an HVAC technician contracted on an emergency basis.
Wallace said prospective students and their families who have scheduled appointments with the admissions staff also can be on campus.
Permitted visitors must register, complete a health screening and comply with the mask policy.
All other visitors are not permitted into college facilities this semester. The bookstore, library, dining hall and athletic facilities are restricted to members of the campus community.
Vehicular traffic also is restricted.
Pedestrian traffic is allowed throughout the campus grounds, but anyone walking on campus must comply with the mask requirement and will not be allowed to access any facilities.