Reports from Wednesday, Oct. 7 estimate that the cumulative number of positive cases on campus has risen to 20 with eight students currently in isolation. This number is set to change as the athletic department awaits future test results.
With 20 cases, the infection rate at GC has risen to the national average of 2.3%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New cases were reported this week as winter sports teams underwent mandatory testing on Monday.
A source from one of the athletic teams said they know of three teams that currently have positive cases.
“All the teams affected by the present positive tests have ceased their practices and their in-person gatherings,” President Rebecca Stoltzfus said.
Chad Coleman, director of campus safety and housing operations, said the positive cases within the athletic department will be recorded on the data dashboard the morning of Thursday, Oct. 8.
The pause on practices and team gatherings came after the women’s volleyball and men’s soccer teams already had to delay competition because of COVID-19 exposure.
A student-athlete said on Wednesday that they’re still waiting for more information from the athletic department and coaches as to who on their team needs to quarantine and what next steps will be put in place for practices and workouts to resume.
In the Pandemic Task Force town hall meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7, President Stoltzfus noted the fragility of the movement while also assuring campus that GC is prepared.
“I am sobered by the rise in cases, and I hope you will also take this seriously,” Stoltzfus said.
Concern around the spread of the coronavirus through athletic teams has increased as a result of winter testing.
“I want you to know that every evening, the custodial staff goes through the weight room and the locker rooms with electrostatic sprayers which are designed to coat surfaces with EPA-approved cleaning agents that are effective against the virus.” Stoltzfus said.
As tests come in, more positive cases could surface, but will not be recorded until further details are worked out.
“There are at least seven other students/employees who’ve submitted a report and are either waiting on test results or a family member's results,” Coleman said.
Along with the rise in cases, the number of students in quarantine calls into question GC’s ability to accommodate their housing needs.
“If we had everybody on campus who needed quarantine and isolation, we would be nearing the edge of what we could manage,” said Kevin Miller, lead campus contact tracer.
“The four cases that came in today [Oct. 7] resulted in a lot of contact tracing activity and we’re still sorting out where everyone will go,” he said. “In some cases we’ve had students stay in their single rooms until we determine if there are remaining rooms available in Miller.”
Still, members on the Pandemic Task Force assured the Goshen College community that proceeding with “calculated risk” is possible and advised.
“Up until recently, we hadn’t seen any on-campus transmission, but we did have a cluster within one of our small-group housing units,” Miller said. “The good news is that we have not seen any transmission happening because of classroom exposures.”
With announcements about the spring semester, attendees at the town hall meeting also raised questions about increased testing and changing guidelines.
“We’ve had this rise in cases, and so we also want to be very cautious and careful that we don’t move too hastily to change our [Student Life] policy,” said Gilberto Perez, vice president of Student Life.
President Stoltzfus agrees.
“One of the things that we knew heading into this experience is that we would continue to learn a lot.”