The first case of COVID-19 on Goshen College’s campus was confirmed last Tuesday, Aug. 18.
Soon after, seven individuals were notified through contact tracing and are now quarantining on floors one and two of Miller Residence Hall for two weeks.
Positive COVID-19 numbers remained stagnant until Aug. 26, when Student Life informed athletes that an entire varsity team would be quarantining after being exposed to a single positive case.
“The Crossroads League has been notified, and the first matches of this team’s season will be rescheduled to a later date,” Erica Albertin, interim athletic director and head athletic trainer, and Gilberto Perez, vice president for student life and dean of students, wrote in an email. “By observing these steps and taking precautionary measures, we can continue to have a successful semester.”
In response, the GC Pandemic Task Force, made up of six administrators and four student advocates, continues to accommodate students in isolation and quarantine to best limit the spread of the virus.
The task force started planning and preparating at the beginning of the summer and continue to have meetings once a week to talk over next steps.
Kevin Miller, task force coordinator and contact tracer, has been a leading force in understanding who is infected on campus and who needs to be quarantined. In the case of the first infected, Miller was in charge of talking with the individual to figure out who would have been exposed to them 48 hours before they started having symptoms. This includes anybody that was within six feet of the individual for 15 minutes or longer.
According to Pandemic Task Force Chair Gilberto Perez, while in quarantine, students are able to be outside on campus as long as they keep proper distance and wear a mask. For those in isolation, they will be confined to Kenwood House and the surrounding yard.
The news of the first case also comes at a time when many colleges and universities are seeing case spikes just weeks into starting classes, forcing them to move online or fully remote. Among them was the University of Notre Dame.
“Initially it was very alarming,” Miller said. But as reporting came out surrounding the spike at Notre Dame, it became clear that the biggest contributor was off-campus parties. “Once we understood what had happened, we thought as long as we can prevent those situations from happening, we stand a good chance to stay on top of this.”
Miller highlights the importance of staying in line with the “Big Four,” a list of personal measures that can be taken against COVID-19. Self screening, hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing a face mask are all steps that weren’t being adhered to at the parties off Notre Dame’s campus and that is a point of emphasis for GC, Miller said.
As a marker for if and when the college should follow suit with Notre Dame and temporarily move online, the task force is less focused on a specific threshold number and more on the facilities available, Perez said.
They have been asking the questions, “what is the capacity for our hospitals to receive students who might be ill?” And, “What is the capacity of our own system to be able to provide a safe environment for students?”
At the moment, Miller Residence Hall has ten beds for exposed students, but if the number of positive cases were to increase significantly, the rooms would be turned into isolation spaces, Perez said. Quarantine areas would then transition to students’ rooms and empty rooms on their floor or another dorm.
With sports games approaching in early September, testing will increase among students as an NAIA rule requires student-athletes to be tested two weeks prior to competition. With more testing, GC could see a rise in cases, as was witnessed with the single varsity team now in quarantine.
As students, faculty and the task force navigate what it means to be safe on campus, President Rebecca Stoltzfus encouraged all to look after one another.
“We must realize our profound interconnectedness for good and for ill and choose to act on behalf of each other’s good,” she said.