The Bates Plague Strikes Back

Last week, many students were reported to be coughing, sniffling, and sneezing, indicating the first wave of “the Bates Plague” has struck campus.  

“My nose did not stop running for like 10 days,” Evan Reynolds ’25 said. “It was like the most congested it’s ever been, ever… I wasn’t really taking any medication… I was just abusing Kleenex boxes.”  

Other students have reported similar experiences.

“I had [a] sore throat, I had [a] stuffy nose, [and] I wasn’t sleeping right because I was coughing a lot,” Krishna Kakani ’25 said. “The Bates Plague is some sort of cold that just occurs… around [the] third week of September.”

“The Bates Plague? That seems like a little overkill for naming, but … there has been a mixture of general cold and flu symptoms circulating, with COVID-19 cases mixed in,” visiting Biology professor Levi Adams said.

Natalie Titus ’24 speculates that two large waves of the Bates Plague occur, one in the fall and one during short term in May. 

Some students have questioned the way Bates Health Services has dealt with the Bates Plague.

“Last year, I went twice [to Health Services] while I was sick,” Titus said. “Usually they just give you Gatorade, which is not super helpful… I’d been sick for like two weeks and I was kind of hoping for…some antibiotics.”  

Since the 2021-22 school year, no student interviewed has reported receiving post-visit Gatorade.  

This month, Titus visited Health Services again. 

“I went with cold symptoms and they… tested for strep but not for COVID-19… so I had to test on my own.”  Titus noted she did not receive any Gatorade.

On the Health Services website, it states that “Health Services nurses will assess your symptoms and provide testing and treatment as clinically indicated.” There is a wide overlap between cold symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms yet students like Titus have reported not to have received a COVID-19 test despite strict safety protocols in the past. 

Students often choose not to go to Health Services when they begin to experience symptoms. Reynolds states he didn’t go “because [he] was still able to function.”

When classes coincide with sickness, the lines blur. Whether or not a class is graded on attendance is a factor some students take into consideration. 

“A week ago… half the class was sick on some level,” Kakani said.  “[and] when someone’s coughing down my neck in a Hawthorne classroom and I’m trying to learn my math, it’s a little annoying.” 

Yet, students continue to attend their classes.

“My classes all have a large portion of their grade from attendance and group activity participation, so students who aren’t there are missing out on that,” Adams said. “I am keeping it flexible though, so that if someone misses one or two days it won’t be enough to sink their grade.”

Most of those interviewed report they still feel safe in their classrooms.  

“In my personal opinion, this ‘Bates Plague’ doesn’t really seem to be affecting students more than most cold and flu seasons I’ve seen in other colleges – colds always circulate, although the extra [COVID-19] cases seem to be adding to it,” Adams said.  “However, that little extra anxiety that comes from COVID-19 makes all of us a little more aware of every cough and sniffle, so I think we are all paying more attention to it than we have been before.” 

“I would define [the Bates Plague] as just a part of the Bates experience.  It happens, and it’s gonna keep happening over and over again throughout the year,” Reynolds concluded.