Aug. 28: COVID-19 testing update

Dear Members of the Bates Community,

Since the college’s COVID-19 testing began on Aug. 18, 2020, the Bates COVID-19 Testing Center has conducted 577 employee tests and 1,168 student tests through Aug. 26. Upon arrival on campus, all Bates students are tested for COVID-19 and will quarantine in their room until a negative test result returns from the Broad Institute. 

While presenting no symptoms of COVID-19 upon their arrival at Bates, one student has tested positive for the virus and has moved into isolation housing, where they will receive all necessary care from Bates Health Services. Our primary concern at this time is for the well-being of this student and their family during, what must be, a difficult time. The Student Affairs team is working closely with this student and the student’s family to offer support and guidance. Maine CDC is aware of the case and is working with the college to provide guidance and support as needed. 

In caring for the health of the Bates community and our neighbors, our public health measures have been implemented. Supporting our testing model, contact tracers are working with this student to identify their close contacts and will notify those individuals. All identified close contacts will follow quarantine protocols. Following an exposure level assessment by providers, testing will be carried out for close contacts as recommended by a healthcare provider.

With the expectation that some members of our community would likely test positive for COVID-19, we have spent the last several months consulting with leading public health experts to develop plans and protocols to detect COVID-19, mitigate the spread of the virus, and support members of our community. Robust testing and contact tracing are critical to achieve this goal of maintaining the health and safety of the Bates community during the pandemic. By identifying asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and restricting their interactions with others, the college can mitigate the spread of the virus on campus. The discovery of this current case underscores the importance and value of this testing program.  

The college’s testing strategy focuses on frequent testing and employs a test capable of detecting relatively small viral loads. The approach is intended to identify cases of COVID-19 prior to the peak infectiousness period. All Bates students will be tested twice each week. Bates employees will be tested frequently based on their level of interactions on the Bates campus.

All tests are processed by the Clinical Research Sequencing Platform at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and results thus far have been returned to Bates within one day of specimen collection. Based on the total number of tests for COVID-19, the current positivity rate at Bates is 0.06%.

COVID-19 Dashboard

As the volume of testing increases, we may well learn of additional confirmed cases, as has been true in other communities. Bates is committed to sharing information about our COVID-19 testing data through this dashboard. The dashboard will receive regular updates, as test results are processed and received. 

Safeguarding Privacy

While the college will communicate openly with the community, we also have a duty to protect the privacy of any individual who tests positive for COVID-19, so that they can receive necessary care and focus on their health. Close contacts will only be informed that they may have been exposed to an individual with a positive test, without sharing that person’s identity. Please respect their privacy and refrain from sharing information informally.

Action You Can Take

Please be mindful of your health, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of COVID-19, and stay home if you feel ill. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and other symptoms, the CDC asks that you contact your healthcare provider by telephone to discuss your illness.

According to the CDC, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus. Practice social distancing, and observe other preventive steps, including:

Managing Stress and Anxiety

The COVID-19 pandemic is exerting significant stress on all members of the Bates community. Managing this anxiety and stress is incredibly important. If you need support, please reach out to access resources that can help you navigate this uncertain time.

  • For students, Carl Steidel, Senior Associate Dean of Students, is available to support you and connect you to campus resources.
  • For faculty and staff, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free service for all Bates employees and their dependents. You can reach EAP at (888) 238-6232 or online. The EAP site has a webinar with information on how to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 as well as a list of resources for information on coping with COVID-19 fears.

As members of our community test positive for COVID-19, we will be sure to offer support and guidance to these individuals. Future updates about positive test results will be published on the COVID-19 dashboard, but since this is our first student case I wanted to bring it to your attention with a message.

Regards,

Josh McIntosh