April 5: COVID-19 and In-Room Restriction Update

Dear Students,

I write to provide you with several important updates. Below you will find information about these topics:

Please take a few minutes to read this message in its entirety.

COVID-19 Transmission and Sources of Infection

Active Student Infections and Students in Close Contact Quarantine

On Saturday, April 3, we had 51 active student cases of COVID-19. On Sunday, April 4, there were two students cleared and released from isolation housing and they are no longer considered active cases. This brings our total active student cases as of this morning to 49. On Saturday, I also shared that we had 129 students in close contact quarantine, which continues to be the number of students in close contact quarantine as of this morning. 

As a reminder, the COVID dashboard is typically updated each day around 5pm EDT. Please continue to monitor this website for COVID-19 test results.

Sources of Infection

Through contact tracing, we have become aware of three social gatherings (two on-campus and one off-campus) from last weekend (March 26 and 27) that are the common source of many of these recent infections. Those who likely became infected at these gatherings then transmitted the virus to their close contacts. 

There are a number of rumors surfacing that this spike in COVID-19 cases is the result of athletic teams practicing or competing or other co-curricular programs. I want to be unequivocal in responding to this rumor: Not one student has been infected to date with COVID-19 as a result of team practice or competing or other co-curricular program offerings.

Rather, unmasked social gatherings have been the most common source of infection, both from recent events as well as those that happened earlier in the semester. In turn, students at the social gatherings have transmitted COVID-19 to their other close contacts. Given the recent spike in cases, we have suspended all in-person activities to try to limit as much contact as possible so that we can interrupt transmission of the virus.

It is also imperative that all students return to strict observance of the public health measures — face coverings, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing — that have kept this community safe all year. Most important of all, students need to avoid gatherings altogether, as well as casual unmasked interactions in residence halls. With the recent emergence of more highly transmissible variants of COVID-19, lapses in public health measures have become far more likely to result in individuals getting infected and passing the infection onto others.

Extending In-Room Restriction

Rationale

Given the continued high number of students testing positive and the number of new close contacts in recent days, this past weekend we once again consulted with our medical advisors at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Stacey Rizza and Dr. Jack O’Horo. They advised that we need to extend the in-room restriction until we see a consistent downward trend (into low single digits) in positive test results and sustain this pattern over several test cycles. A one-time lower number of students testing positive is not sufficient indication that we have contained this spread. 

Accordingly, we will need to extend in-room restriction through Sunday, April 11, in an effort to stabilize the transmission of COVID on our campus. In addition to our concerns for student, faculty, and staff health, an unchecked surge of this kind is very challenging operationally. We want to do our best to avoid getting anywhere close to a situation that could jeopardize the remainder of the semester. 

Additional Testing

We will be using both the Broad PCR test and the rapid-result antigen test in each of the testing cycles today (Monday), Wednesday, and Friday. The antigen tests will allow us to identify and isolate any students who test positive quickly, while the more sensitive PCR test will give us more conclusive results a day later (typically within 24 hours).

The results of the testing today (Monday), Wednesday, and Friday of this week will inform next steps. We will learn more with each day of testing, and at the end of the week we will receive Friday’s PCR test results on Saturday. If necessary, contact tracing will continue on Saturday afternoon and evening. This should put us in a good position to make informed decisions on Sunday. Please be reminded that students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should go to Bates Health Services. In addition to their normal hours of operation (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday ) BHS offers an on-call clinical provider to assist with after-hours care, which you can learn more about on our FAQs webpage.

Reminders About In-Room Restriction

Students are not permitted to leave campus and may only leave their residence hall room or off-campus house/apartment to do the following:

  • Attend your scheduled and mandatory COVID-19 testing appointment, during which you may also stop by Post & Print after your testing appointment to pick up packages and mail;
  • Pick up your Dash meal;
  • Use the restroom;
  • Exercise alone outside on campus;
  • Attend your vaccine appointment (off-campus);
  • Pick up prescription medication; or
  • Go to Bates Health Services or visit a medical provider.
Violations of Public Health Policies

This is a time when we need you to increase your attention to adhering to sound public health practices. Please note that any student who violates the in-room restriction, or other public health protocols, will be in violation of the Public Health Agreement. Failure to follow campus in-room restriction directives will result in immediate referral to the student conduct system, which will likely result in being removed from college housing and being switched to remote learning for the remainder of the semester.

Effect on Start of Module D

Module D classes will start as planned on Wednesday, April 7, with the first three days of class being taught remotely. The ILS Help Desk remains open for remote assistance. Please call 207-786-8222 if you need assistance.

Dining Information

Students will continue to access Dash meals in the Commons. Convenience-packed items and snacks will be made available at dinner which students can bring to their room to provide additional support when dining is not available. 

Dining will be accessible three times per day during the week and twice on weekends. Hot food options will be available during those times. Following are the hours of operation for Commons:

Monday and Friday
7am–9am
10am–2:30pm
4:30pm–9pm

Saturday and Sunday
9:30am–2:30pm
4:30pm– 9pm

The Den and Meet Me at the Mezz will remain closed.

During in-room restriction off-campus students — including those not on the board plan — may continue to access Dash meals in Commons. 

If you need dining assistance, or have specific dining questions during this period, please contact Jenny Graves at  jgraves2@bates.edu.

Supporting Each Other During this Time

We understand how challenging this current situation is, coming after a long year when everyone on campus is exhausted and many students are struggling with isolation and the burden of current restrictions. We are here to support you however we can. We encourage you to utilize these resources as needed:

  • Student Support Advisors (SSA) — All students have an SSA who is available for personal support and supplemental academic advising. Your SSA may be found by looking at your Success Network in BatesReach.
  • Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) — Provides ongoing counseling, same day appointments, and psychiatric evaluations and medication management. To speak to a crisis counselor after hours, please call 207-786-6200 and press “0” at the prompt.
  • Multifaith Chaplains — Available for pastoral care and conversations.
  • Office of Intercultural Education — Professional and student staff are available for conversations and support.

Additional Vaccine Information Forthcoming

As mentioned above, we will be allowing students to leave campus to receive a vaccine. However, please note that students in isolation or quarantine may not leave campus and must continue to follow necessary isolation and quarantine protocols. Later this morning, you will receive a message providing you with a number of important details related to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Where to Direct Questions

We continue to update our FAQs webpage. Should you have any other questions and not know the right person or office to contact, please email us at studentaffairs@bates.edu and we will connect you to the person best situated to assist you.

Please Help Us

I cannot underscore enough the seriousness of the issues we are facing and the need for everyone to be vigilant in following our public health protocols. Physical distancing, wearing your face covering at all times when outside of your residence hall room, and following in-room restriction policies are imperative in helping to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 on campus. 

I appreciate your ongoing partnership and diligence during this difficult year. Please know that the decision to extend in-room restriction was not made lightly, but it is necessary for us to try to get the transmission of COVID-19 on our campus under control. As always, thank you for your continued understanding as we work together to manage this challenging situation. 

Sincerely,
Josh

Joshua G. McIntosh
Vice President for Campus Life