In an email sent to students on Tuesday, Vice President for Campus Life Josh McIntosh confirmed three new COVID-19 cases on campus, bringing the tally of active cases to six.
The three new cases were confirmed from positive tests on Monday, and two of the positive results were linked to close contact with a student who previously tested positive. This is the first confirmed case of community spread at Bates. Additionally, a student who returned home for a non-COVID-19 related reason has recently tested positive.
McIntosh stated that the college is still waiting on about 425 test results from Monday, which they expect will be reported later tonight. Only half of the students tested on Monday — just a quarter of the student body — have received their results.
Sixty-two students are currently in quarantine after the contact tracing process today led to an additional 28 students being notified.
Students who test positive will be moved to isolation housing for at least ten days. Students who are close contacts of a positive case are required to remain in quarantine at Bates for at least 14 days. Quarantined students may leave their residence halls to exercise with a mask on. They are not permitted to leave the campus at large. They are not to go to class or Commons and must stay 6 feet from others at all times.
Whether in isolation housing or in quarantine, students must remain at Bates for the full duration of their quarantine periods. With only two weeks left until Thanksgiving break, any students who test positive or are identified as close contacts may have to alter or delay their travel plans in order to remain at Bates.
Additionally, McIntosh emphasized that students must pack up their belongings before leaving for break.
Bates has stated that it intends to invite students back to campus on Jan. 8, but warns that students must be prepared for remote classes if this is not possible. As cases rise nationally and in Maine, some are concerned about the ability of Bates to resume in person classes in January.
The Portland Press Herald reported today that COVID-19 cases are spreading faster in Maine than any other state in the country. The four day average is 155 cases per day, with 204 cases reported on Sunday.
On Friday, the Sun Journal reported an outbreak at Russell Park Rehabilitation, a nursing home across from Bates’ outdoor track on Russell St. As of Monday, 72 patients and staff members have tested positive there for COVID-19.
McIntosh urged students to limit their close contacts, which he defined as individuals who are “within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset.” It does not matter whether masks were worn during the duration of contact.
McIntosh also stressed the importance of curtailing off-campus travel and restated that students are only allowed access in their own residence halls.
Bates will still provide the Bobcat Express, but only in essential cases, defined by McIntosh as necessary store trips, medical appointments, and college-sponsored off-campus work approved by the Harward Center.
With a rising number of cases in the state of Maine and at Bates, it is unclear what will unfold. In the past, the administration has stated that if 2% of the student body, or approximately 35 students, test positive, they will become greatly concerned; if this rises to three percent of the student body, or an estimated 50 students, they will consider implementing a strict campus lockdown or sending students home.
As cases — and tensions — rise on campus, many students are just hoping to make it until Thanksgiving break and avoid being sent home or failing ill.