Dear Kenyon community,
We wanted to update everyone on our entry testing results, and to point our way forward for the campus over the coming weeks.
Since January 10, when students began to return to campus, results have been returned for 1,257 tests, and 39 of those results were positive. Of these, seven are currently active cases in isolation off campus. Students have reported that they are either asymptomatic or are experiencing only mild to moderate symptoms, and none have required acute medical care. We still await results on about 300 more tests. In addition, before arriving on campus, 135 students reported that they tested positive and had either completed their isolation or delayed their arrival on campus to do so. Kenyon employees have also reported 22 cases since January 1, and 8 of those are active cases. Up-to-date information, including daily and weekly testing summaries, are available on the Kenyon COVID-19 Dashboard.
These baseline data are very encouraging, and we applaud the care that everyone has taken to make the start of the semester as healthy as possible. At the same time, the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant means that community spread is still likely to occur. Knox County remains an area of high spread. Knox Public Health reported more than 1,000 new cases in the last week, and the local health care system is still facing a significant challenge. Given these circumstances, we will maintain Campus Activity Level 3 and reevaluate next week after the entry testing data are complete.
Because of the potential for high rates of spread, we will be augmenting our testing capacity by providing rapid antigen tests from BD Veritor. Starting on Monday, January 24, students can pick up one test kit per week from the mailroom in Gund Commons, and each kit contains two tests. The tests require a compatible smartphone, and students are required to report all positive results to email@example.com. This supply of rapid tests is limited and we do not anticipate being able to replenish it at this time. So while we want tests available when students need them, we also want to encourage everyone to use this resource prudently. PCR tests will remain the core of our testing strategy, and they will continue to be used at the Health Services and for other systematic testing efforts.
This phase of the pandemic requires us to trust one another, so we need to behave in a way that is worthy of that trust, and we need to supportively but persistently expect that same caring and trustworthy behavior from others. We must continue to monitor our symptoms carefully and get evaluated and tested when necessary. We have to keep wearing well-fitted masks at all times indoors and when we are around each other, even when just gathering with a few friends in dormitory common spaces or studying in the Chalmers Library.
Looking out for one another in this way also means having open and honest communication. Have a conversation with your roommates and friends about how you can keep each other healthy and what you would do if one of you tested positive. If a friend “wakes up with a cold,” encourage them to contact their professors and coaches to let them know how they are feeling and to get a rapid test or schedule an appointment with Health Services. Squeezing in one more workout, one more class, or one more lunch in Peirce is not worth the cost of infecting teammates, classmates, professors, or friends. If someone has their mask on their chin or in their pocket, help them remember that it only does them (and you) any good when it is snugly over their nose and mouth. Some of these conversations might be uncomfortable, but they are necessary because we are in this together.
The Kenyon community has done a remarkable job of taking care of one another, and we are confident that we will continue to do so.
Associate Provost and Professor of Biology
Chair of the COVID-19 Steering Committee