Active COVID-19 Cases Rise to 79

COVID-19 has spread like wildfire at Bates. 

Just a little more than a week ago on March 29, Bates posted its highest single-day number of positives at the time – seven. A week later, the single-day record has tripled; 26 students tested positive from Monday’s testing alone.

As of Wednesday evening, there are 79 active student cases on campus. This number is expected to rise after Wednesday’s testing.   

To put the situation in perspective, 79 students is more than 4% of students living on or near campus currently. Sixty-seven percent of Bates’ 113 isolation rooms are now occupied with Covid-positive students. On average, Bates has posted 10 new cases a day since the lockdown was implemented last Thursday.

In an email to students Tuesday afternoon, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Joshua McIntosh wrote that 106 students are currently being monitored as close contacts. 

In a different email on Monday morning, McIntosh confirmed that the outbreak can be traced back to at least two on-campus and one off-campus gatherings on the nights of March 26-27.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

Unmasked social gatherings have been the most common source of transmission, he continued.

After the campus-wide in-room restriction was implemented, Bates has administered both the rapid antigen test and the PCR test on testing days – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Normally, Bates administers PCR tests on Monday and Wednesday, and the rapid antigen on Friday. 

The lockdown will extend until at least this Sunday, however it may be extended a second time if students continue to test positive this week.

Students began Module D classes remotely on Wednesday and should expect to continue online classes until the lockdown ends.   

This outbreak comes at a time when Maine, and most of the U.S., is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Maine reported 406 new cases of Covid on Wednesday; This is the ninth day in a row Maine has reported at least 200 cases. 

In an April 5 message to students, McIntosh wrote that students do have permission to leave campus in order to get their COVID-19 vaccines. Bates is offering shuttles on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays every 30 minutes to the Auburn mall for students to get vaccinated at the Central Maine Medical Center clinic. The shuttle service starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m., with pick-up and drop-off at the Chase Hall loading dock.

It is unclear whether or not the spread of COVID-19 on campus will slow once more of the student body gets vaccinated.