Campus life, which was already out of the ordinary, changed even more this weekend at Gettysburg College as the number of positive COVID-19 cases jumped in the second round of testing since the arrival of about 2,500 students in August.
Although only five students out of the entire student body were designated as “true positive” cases in the first round, there are now 33 confirmed cases, which represents almost 1.5 percent of the students on campus.
Administrators and students spoke about the situation at a virtual town hall held today for students and parents.
“That the number jumped so quickly in such a short period of time, especially given the strong results we had when students came onto campus, suggests that perhaps we may have let our guard down,” said college President Bob Iuliano. “This is an early signal of a pattern change. It’s time to press the reset button.”
“We know what we need to do, and what happens when we don’t do it,” said Dr. Richard Keeling, the college’s consultant on health and safety. “It’s in your hands. What changed was us, not the virus.”
Thirty-one of the 33 cases were among sophomores, many of whom were pledging Greek organizations during this time period. Greek organizations have now promised to cancel any formal or informal events on campus for the incoming pledging classes until further notice.
The other two cases were from members of the senior class.
Over half of the positive cases came from students living in the Gettysburg Hotel, prompting an immediate quarantine of the hotel beginning Friday evening. Testing for students living there will begin Monday morning.
As of Friday evening no non-residents have been allowed to enter or leave the hotel. The hotel staff is sanitizing common areas and door handles. Students have been asked to not use the laundry facilities or receive any items from any outside source.
During the town hall, students were also asked to voice their opinions on the situation, and many did.
“During such times of uncertainty it did not come as a surprise to many students that something like this would happen in such a short time frame,” said sophomore Paidin M. Wilson when asked how she felt after hearing about the quarantine.
“Finger pointing isn’t going to get us anywhere”, said senior Brianna Stokes. As many students find themselves worried and concerned for what will happen next, they are assured that Gettysburg College has not reached the percentage of positive cases that would send them back to a remote learning environment.”
The potential availability of rapid tests was a popular subject during the meeting. “They are not available to us yet,” said Keeling.