It was only a few months ago that colleges closed their gates and sent students home in droves because of the emerging global pandemic. We are nearing the year mark for living in a world of COVID-19, and though two companies have come forward with promising results from vaccination trials, individual towns within the United States are preparing for another wave of increasing cases.
Emily Lamb, a public relations specialist from QuoteWizard by LendingTree (a loan company providing COVID-19 related financial resources) provided new statistics for New Hampshire: “New Hampshire has reached 14,617 COVID-19 cases, a record number as we enter the much anticipated second wave.” Healthcare analysts from QuoteWizard warn that New Hampshire has the “23rd least prepared hospital capacity in the nation”, with approximately three physicians for every 1,000 residents in the state.
As New Hampshire’s cases grow, Keene State has presented its own data from its weekly mass testing of students coming to campus. “As of last weeks 11/12, 11/13 testing, we have had twelve positive cases: nine students and three faculty,” Kelly Ricaurte, Keene State College’s Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations stated during a phone interview, mentioning that this jump in cases was to be expected based on the numbers rising in New Hampshire and the city of Keene.
President Treadwell commented on the increase in cases, “I expected this increase in cases because I’ve been watching the state numbers. It’s concerning and I’m saddened. The only bright side is that no people are feeling very sick and I’m really grateful for that. I wish it hadn’t climbed but as a scientist I expected it.”
“We are at 0.35% positivity. The city is at 0.89%, and the state is at 2.1%,” President Treadwell stated. Treadwell said that as of November 18 the college has 22 quarantine beds of the 30 available being used, with three to four of those individuals leaving quarantine later that day. “We are still operating within our ‘green’ COVID protocol. We are still planning to open in January. We are gearing toward return testing and making this easy.”
When asked about how Keene State has been handling the response to COVID-19, Ricaurte added, “I think our students are incredible, they have taken it seriously, they have kept each other safe, they are following safety protocols, wearing masks, showing up for testing, which is very important. Overall I think we are very pleased with how the fall semester is coming to an end, and I know we all want to personally thank our students for their hard work and their commitment to keeping everyone healthy.”
Kirk Sanger, Keene’s head of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team, and an Associate Professor of Nursing at Keene State, commented on the testing process in an email, “I think our KSC community has been so successful through the continued coordinated efforts among so many people and offices. This has all hinged on each member of this community taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their fellow KSC community members safe. This effort has allowed us to all be in community together pursuing our academic goals in support of students and for that, I know I am certainly appreciative of everyone’s efforts.” He also commended the effort of the testing team, and representatives from Stewart’s Ambulance Service on the ability to test over 3,000 people each week, with a turn-around period, on average, of 10 to 15 minutes.
Despite strong turn out during mass testing, there has been a noticeable drop in participation since the first testing results published on Keene State College’s “COVID-19 Surveillance Monitoring”, on September 8th. 3,647 tests were documented by September 8th for the first week of testing, and 3,103 test results released from the November 12th and 13th testing. The surveillance testing results notice an immediate drop after September 15th, of nearly 500 people, and stayed closer to the 3,100 to 3,200 people tested each week.
Dr. Wayne Hartz, CSP, the Department Chair for the Safety and Occupational Health Applied Science program at Keene State commented on the decrease of COVID-19 tests: “There’s a few things at play. And you know, some of it is legit because students have said ‘I’m not going to be on campus next week’ and so they just say to themselves ‘I’m not going to go get tested because I’m not going to be on campus.’ We’ve heard there’s some fatigue, people are tired and they don’t think it’s necessary but we try to follow up with everybody who doesn’t get tested to find out why,” Dr. Hatrz continued to stress the importance of utilizing the free weekly testing in order to keep individuals and the community safe. He pointed out that even when asymptomatic, you can still spread the disease unknowingly.
With the semester coming to an end, Ricaurte pressed President Treadwell’s recommendations from the “Your Health and Safety” email. “We are asking students to stay on campus until they get their test results back before leaving for Thanksgiving break. If you have to go home, be very careful about mask wearing and physical distance until your test result comes back.” If a student receives a positive test result from 11/19 and 11/20 testing, and has gone home, Keene State’s Rapid Response Team will still contact you and advise you and your family on how to proceed.
Keene State College is moving forward with their reopening plans for the spring semester, and information on reopening plans can be found on Keene State’s website.
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