Keuka College today announced plans to temporarily close campus operations and began making arrangements for healthy students to return home as it continues to navigate a cluster of coronavirus cases.
“While the public health guidance to keep students on-campus remains best practice, the growing number of cases has made separating healthy students from quarantining populations increasingly difficult,” College President Amy Storey said today in a statement sent to students, faculty, and staff. “County and state health officials have given their permission for the College to allow healthy students who are not subject to a quarantine or isolation order to leave campus in order to create additional isolation and quarantine capacity.”
As of noon today, Yates County Public Health confirmed 14 new positive cases over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number among the College population to more than 70. These figures don’t necessarily reflect new infections, as the College and public-health officials are still processing test results from an initial triggering event last week.
Out of an abundance of caution, the College is asking students who have not tested positive or been directed to quarantine to make arrangements to return home by the end of the week. Although the College moved to remote instruction last week, Thursday and Friday synchronous classes have been canceled to facilitate the transition.
“As the challenge has escalated, we’ve taken the guidance offered by our health partners and enacted even more strident steps to heighten public safety and safeguard our students,” said Dr. Chris Alterio, chair of the College’s Reopening Task Force.
Public-health directives require students quarantining or isolating to remain in place. Those students will be released by public health officials to return home once they are no longer infectious.
The College had experienced just a single positive coronavirus case during the first six weeks of the semester. That all changed after a public health investigation determined that a non-sanctioned, off-campus social gathering on Oct. 3 triggered the onset of the current cluster.
Since the first positive student case was reported on Oct. 7, the College has quickly instituted a series of escalating response strategies, including transitioning to distance learning, closing high-traffic campus facilities, canceling all athletics-related activity, requiring non-essential personnel to work from home, and converting the Geiser Dining Commons to 100% take-out.
“We had hoped this step wouldn’t be necessary,” said President Storey, “but the quickly escalating number of positive cases has made this temporary shut-down unavoidable.”