Off-campus student COVID-19 cases have recently spiked, so what is causing it and how is Keene State College responding?
As of March 11, there were 28 total active cases of COVID-19 among those attending Keene State. A total of 21 of those cases are off-campus students, and nine of those active cases occurred between March 8 and March 11. This information can be seen on the KSC website at, https://www.keene.edu/featured/spring21/assets/documents/status/download/.
Dean of Students Gail Zimmerman said, “It’s primarily in off-campus congregate housing,” which means that the COVID cases are happening within groups of students who are sharing a living space like an apartment. “It’s understandable, but students just weren’t practicing good public health guidelines,” said Zimmerman.
Kelly Ricaurte, Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations, discussed the off-campus case spike. Ricaurte said, “It’s sounding like students are gathering in small groups, with neighbors or friends they miss.” Additionally, Ricaurte said that she does not think the spread is being caused by larger gatherings. “All it takes is two people to spread the virus and we’re not really hearing of big parties.”
Kendahl Rae is an off-campus student and said that the COVID spike scares her, “a little bit.” She said she has heard that, “it is mostly students who live in Keene.” When asked what she thought should be done to slow the infection rate, Rae said, “I don’t know. There is not much you can do to crack down on the behavior of off-campus students.”
Off-campus student Tate Fairbank said that the rise in COVID cases doesn’t really scare him. Fairbank said that he will soon be getting the second shot of the COVID vaccine so he will be, “in the clear.” Fairbank also said he thinks the college is doing an adequate job of controlling the cases. “I think they’re doing as much as they can right now without becoming too overbearing.”
“The public health guidelines are effective, we know they work,” said Zimmerman. The Dean said that people need to keep following those guidelines including “wearing masks, social distancing and keeping a very close circle of contacts.” Zimmerman said that Keene State College is implementing strategies like the testing biweekly to, “catch the positive cases faster.”
Ricaurte had similar comments about the biweekly testing. “We just know faster if students are positive,” Ricaurte also said. “The requirement of the surgical masks is a big part of that,” she said. “Our on-campus environment is very safe,” because of the surgical mask requirement and the six-foot distancing in classrooms. “We are communicating with landlords,” added Ricaurte. “we want them to know if cases are rising.”
Lastly, when asked if the college would close and students sent home again, Ricaurte said, “The possibility is always there.” Zimmerman as well said, “It is always a possibility.”
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