Students are letting their guard down against COVID-19 when it matters most.
On Friday, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Joshua McIntosh wrote a message to students imploring them to reduce close contacts and adhere to the public health agreement. If cases continue to rise, Bates may be forced to implement a campus-wide in-room quarantine to drive cases down, he wrote.
“We are seeing significantly higher levels of community spread and higher positivity rates than we experienced for most of the fall,” Dean McIntosh wrote. New, highly transmissible variants of the virus also remain a concern.
This rise in cases comes as many students have become lax with public health policies. Unlike the fall when the weather was warmer and COVID-19 cases were lower, students are primarily interacting inside during the winter, increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
It is clear that the administration is concerned about close-contact gatherings this weekend — with good reason. The Lewiston Police Department (LPD) confirmed multiple off-campus gatherings that occurred last weekend, Feb. 19-21.
Sergeant Michael Dumond wrote that the LPD responded to noise complaints for three student residences located on White Street, Vale Street, and Oak Street. The students on White Street were issued a City Ordinance violation for a nuisance party, while the students on Vale Street and Oak Street received no disciplinary action.
The information provided indicates there was clear evidence for gatherings at all three addresses. Due to the City Ordinance violation, the students at White Street may have to pay a fine.
It is unknown how many people were present or whether masks were worn at these gatherings.
A party was broken up at Moulton House at midnight on Friday, according to Campus Safety’s daily crime log. Eight students were referred to the the Dean of Students for liquor law violations. Four students on Elm Street were also referred to the Dean of Students due to an unspecified neighborhood complaint.
Sergeant Dumond also wrote that large groups of students were seen walking on numerous streets surrounding campus, and liquor violations were issued by the LPD.
In a statement to The Student, Dean McIntosh wrote that 11 students have been sent home during the winter semester for violating the public health agreement. Violations include breaking arrival quarantine directives and entering other dorms, according to his public message.
In two weeks, Bates has already sent home more students than during the entire fall semester: nine, according to Dean McIntosh.
He expects the number will rise in the coming days.
“We are still working to resolve some additional incidents, therefore these numbers may increase as we move through the conduct process on other issues of non compliance,” he wrote.
However, unlike the fall’s zero-tolerance policy, some of these students may be able to return to campus.
In his message to the Bates community, Dean McIntosh stated that some infractions, such as entering a different dorm; hosting small, maskless gatherings; or breaking quarantine protocols will necessitate students returning home for four weeks or more. Afterward, students may return to campus.
“In the sanctioning process, we seek to find a balance — by holding students accountable for their decisions in a manner that encourages cooperation and adherence to our public health practices, while also taking into account the need for students to have an opportunity to recover from the experience. We believe that for less egregious violations, having on-campus privileges removed and being required to study remotely for four weeks strikes this balance,” Dean McIntosh wrote to The Student.
Students who repeatedly violate the public health code or commit a major infraction — such as hosting a large party, presumably — will be moved to remote learning for the remainder of the semester or suspended.
This past week, ten students tested positive for COVID-19. This is a steep increase from the three positives identified last week, causing alarm among the Bates community.
In total, there are 11 active student cases on campus. They have collectively named 55 close contacts who are currently quarantining in their rooms.
Besides emailing students, Dean McIntosh also emailed Bates families, asking them to speak to students about following COVID-19 guidelines.
He wrote, “We would be grateful if you could once again speak with your student about the importance of making good decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of members of the Bates community.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been no new cases since last week.
This article has been updated to include information from Campus Safety’s daily crime log and an update as of Wednesday afternoon