On April 1, Dean of students Dennis Proulx sent an email to all students, faculty and staff to report the recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases on campus.
According to the email, there were 30 students currently recovering from the virus and 48 other students that were quarantined as a result of close contact with positive cases.
Proulx said the influx of positive cases is not coming from the classrooms or athletic fields.
“What we are seeing is people are getting together for what seems like a small, reasonable approach and a couple days later someone tests positive. Suddenly everyone from that gathering is becoming positive,” he said.
Students aren’t contracting the virus in extravagant ways, he added.
“It’s letting down your guard when you’re with someone you call a friend,” that has added to the rise, he said.
Proulx also said the recent spike is related to the overall rise in Vermont’s COVID numbers due to the discovery that the positive tests are coming in from both on-campus and local off-campus students.
“The rates in Rutland county are currently the highest in the state and the state is currently among the highest in the country. So it is a direct reflection of our greater community and not an isolating event to our campus,” Proulx clarified.
Community Advisor Ryan Boeke said the college has been trying to house all of the positive cases in one building, but it is filling up quickly.
Boeke said his residents are feeling the effects of quarantine but are cooperating.
“I know some of the people in quarantine and they know it’s not fun, but to keep others safe and to make sure the university doesn’t close down, we have to do our part and stay here,” he said.
He is currently in quarantine himself and says it’s about looking at the positives that come from the isolation period.
“Quarantine actually hasn’t been that bad for me. I have a pretty busy schedule so just being able to relax and do my work not on a time crunch is actually very nice,” he said.
Kathryn Coolidge, a junior on campus studying early childhood and special education, says she was asked to switch dorms after testing positive for COVID last week.
“I was put into north house on March 29 after finding out I tested positive,” Coolidge said.
Before testing positive, Coolidge served as a CA in Morrill Hall. Despite being able to catch up on some of her favorite TV shows, she said the worst part about being in quarantine is not seeing all the familiar faces of her friends and residents.
“The social aspect has been my favorite part of becoming a CA and it has been difficult and lonely losing those moments for the time being,” she said.
The email from Proulx outlined the suspected cause of the sudden rise in cases as the consequence of small gatherings where mask and social distancing guidelines are not always followed. In addition, so called COVID fatigue, nice weather, and travel opportunities have contributed to the spike.
The campus will be ramping up COVID-19 precautions over the next week and a half, the email said. The university continues to work quickly and efficiently to isolate those who have been infected with or exposed to the virus, Proulx wrote.
According to the testing results available on the university website, while the number of tests given has recently increased, the rate of positivity has only reached 1% for the spring semester. The data for March shows no positive activity until March 11, which supports the theory stated in the email blaming warmer weather and gatherings for the rise.
Castleton football team’s quarterback Jake McCarthy doesn’t seem to think any specific source is the cause for the recent increase in positive cases, but says it could be a combination on many different factors due to the highly contagious nature of the virus.
Luckily, he said, the spike hasn’t hit his team too hard.
“We had a positive test two weeks ago, followed by another one a couple days later. We have some players in quarantine just out of precaution, but no one tested positive the last time we tested on Thursday,” McCarthy shared.
He says the increase in testing has him and his teammates waking up a little earlier, but that the precautions are worth the payoff.
“We have been testing three times a week since the first positive test to try to contain the virus and with the results, we have been able to contain it. We are the lucky ones that have not had to go into a pause like other teams on campus,” he said.