taken from keene.edu

Hunter Oberst
News Editor

COVID-19 rates in the area are dropping as of April 9.

Construction Clerk of the Works Colin Burdick said Cheshire Country rates have dropped 23% and rates in the City of Keene have dropped by 47%. Keene State College’s infection rate is also on a decline from previous weeks and has dropped to 0.42% as of April 9. The college is currently facing 16 positive active cases, all within the student body. Off-campus students make up 13 of those cases.

Burdick said he is cautiously optimistic about these numbers. “It’s a good week, but we’re already on to the next,” Burdick said.

Burdick added that Keene State’s case rates tend to mimic the City of Keene’s “but on a lesser variety.” Burdick said he is cautious because the City of Keene’s rates have gone up and down in previous weeks.

“All it takes is one week for it to go up,” Burdick said.

One method the City of Keene is using to predict case rates is through the Keene State College and City of Keene Wastewater Epidemiology Project. Keene State COVID Project Team Leader Dr. Wayne Hartz said that 50% of individuals infected with COVID-19 shed the virus through their stool which goes into the public wastewater system. Dr. Hartz said that by looking at the wastewater, experts can predict what case rates might look like two weeks ahead of time. Hartz added that there has been no evidence of transmission from the wastewater.

Similar methods are being used in Manchester and Durham to predict COVID-19 case rates, Hartz said. He added that Durham has been testing its wastewater for traces of the UK variant and South African variant of the virus and has been seeing an increase in the UK variant.

Keene has not detected any trace of the UK variant, Hartz said. Although Keene is not seeing any evidence of variants in the wastewater, Hartz added Keene is seeing an increase in the amount of COVID RNA in the waste water.

“It’s wicked concerning,” Hartz said. “We did not detect the UK variant, but we’re holding our breath and we have to maintain vigilance. Places where COVID is out of control, they attribute to the presence of variants. Wearing a mask is probably the most important thing right now.”

Readers can find the Keene State and City of Keene Wastewater Epidemiology Project data at:

https://www.keene.edu/featured/fall2020/assets/documents/keene-wastewater-surveillance/download/.

Despite an increase in COVID RNA in wastewater, COVID rates at the college are still low. Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations Kelly Ricaurte said much of this is attributed to testing compliance in the college community. Keene State is seeing 96% testing compliance.

“It’s encouraging,” Ricaurte said. “It shows that faculty, staff and students are cautious.”

Burdick was also pleased with the compliance rate.

“Our students want to do the right thing,” Burdick said. “We’ve gotten this far without a lockdown so hopefully we can do it. The goal is an in-person graduation at the end of the semester. Hopefully we keep doing what we’re doing because it’s working.”

Ricaurte said that with vaccines becoming more widely available in the state, she is optimistic the college can keep case rates low.

“We need to continue to be careful and sign up for vaccines,” Ricaurte said. “Even after vaccination we still need to have masks and testing because many in the community will still not be vaccinated yet. The more vaccinated, the better for the whole community.”

Ricuarte said students can find links to register for vaccination for all New England States on the college’s website under “COVID-19 Vaccines.”

You can find that here: https://www.keene.edu/featured/spring21/.

 

Hunter Oberst can be contacted at:
news@kscequinox.com

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