COVID surges weeks before semester’s end

Taken from keene.edu

Hunter Oberst
News Editor

COVID cases have risen sharply in just one week.

Keene State College reported 47 individuals infected with COVID-19 and 82 individuals are in quarantine as of May 6. 22 of these cases are on-campus students and 24 are off-campus students. The college’s infection rate is 1.53%, meaning that 1.53% of students and faculty are infected with the virus.

During the testing period ending on May 2, the college reported 20 positive cases. On May 3, the college reported 28 new cases; 17 on-campus students and 11 off-campus students.

Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations Kelly Ricaurte said it was alarming to see this sharp increase in cases.

“Up until this point we haven’t seen cases reach this high so fast,” Ricaurte said.

The college experienced a similar outbreak during the last week of February when it reported 42 positive cases between February 21 and February 28.

KSC COVID-19 Project Team Leader Dr. Wayne Hartz said Keene State is now in yellow/red operational status. He added that he thinks a contributing factor to this outbreak is the discovery of the UK variant of COVID-19 in the wastewater on April 5. Hartz added that in the week preceding the outbreak, the state health department reported 23% of its COVID-19 samples contained the UK variant. The week of the outbreak they found 53%.

“We know the variants are there and we are continuing to see them,” President Melinda Treadwell said. “Once you see them they tend to stay because they are now in circulation in the population.”

Hartz said he thinks another contributing factor is fatigue.

“There’s a very classic phenomenon called habituation where you just become used to a message,” Hartz said. “I fear that people are so tired of the precautions. We’re down to the wire and are taking these steps to limit the spread.”

Treadwell sent out an email to the KSC community detailing several operational changes to take effect immediately. The Zorn Dining Commons will accommodate take-out dining only. There will be no inside events inside the Student Center including meetings, nor will there be seating available for eating. Use of the recreation center will be limited to academic classes and COVID-19 testing only. In-person activities scheduled up until May 12 that can allow for gathering in close proximity will be moved outdoors. Treadwell added that in-person classes will continue as normal due to the spacing and masking requirements in place.

Ricaurte said that by shutting down activities in the recreational center, the student center and the dining commons, the school is eliminating areas where students can gather indoors; the school’s biggest concern.

“In order to make it to May we need to continue to be safe in order to fish the semester in person,” Ricaurte said. “Students have shown it’s possible and that they care. They need to show vigilance for the last three weeks.”

Dr. Hartz expressed concern over whether or not Owls would be able to conclude the semester in-person.

“We are right on the edge of not being able to finish,” Hartz said. “If testing reveals even more positives over the next two days, it will be so close.”

Ricaurte encouraged students to get vaccinated. She added that out of state students are eligible to get their first dose vaccine in New Hampshire and then get their second dose in their home state.

On May 11, Keene State College reported 56 active cases and 76 individuals in quarantine. 34 of those positive cases belong to on campus students and 22 of those cases are off campus students.

The college hopes to return to regular operations by May 13.

However, as of May 11 at 1 pm, there are now 56 reported active cases.

 

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

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