Two students, one staff member test positive on Tuesday; 15 students enter quarantine

Rebecca Tauber, Senior Writer

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, two students and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The tests were the first positives since Oct. 28, and as of publication, bring the total number of student, faculty and staff positives up to 10 since the College started its testing program on Aug. 17. 

“As far as we know, there is no common link between the 2 positive student cases,” Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom wrote in an email to the Record. “The staff member who tested positive was working remotely and is staying off campus,” Sandstrom wrote in an email to students.

The positives come as COVID-19 levels spike across the country, including in Massachusetts, and as US health officials encourage people to stay at home and cancel Thanksgiving plans with those outside their immediate household.

In addition to the two positive students in isolation, 15 students are in quarantine due to potential exposure to the two new cases. Ten of those students are in the same pods as the students who tested positive, and another five were also determined to be close contacts. After a testing delay from the Broad Institute, which runs the College’s tests, Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische said that there have been no additional positives since further testing on Wednesday. 

Although all students except those with prior approval to stay on campus had to leave by Sunday, Nov. 22 for the end of the in-person semester, the students who tested positive and their close contacts must stay on campus for at least 10 days after their initial test. Reische said that the students who tested positive can leave 10 days after their test if they remain asymptomatic. Reische said that while close contacts previously had to quarantine for 14 days, “The state’s new guidance allows those who have been exposed to COVID to test out of quarantine after 10 days” if they do not experience any symptoms and test negative eight days after exposure. 

Reische said that the College is using the current Center for Disease Control (CDC) definition of close contact. “Close contact is defined by CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection),” the CDC website says.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Sandstrom sent an email to students about the recent positive results. She recommended that students take extra precautions the last few days on campus, including avoiding social gatherings, wearing a mask at all times even among members of the same pod, increasing hand washing and leaving campus sooner if possible.

Earlier last week, an additional pod of students was placed in quarantine due to a possible exposure to COVID-19; however, they have since tested negative and are no longer in quarantine.