Dear members of the Kenyon campus community,
As we have learned far too many times over the course of the past two years, dealing with COVID presents rapidly evolving challenges. Over the past two days, we have seen a very rapid rise in students reporting positive tests, and as of today, we have a total of 35 confirmed student cases, up from 8 reported on our COVID dashboard Monday evening. Of these, 33 are active cases that require isolation housing.
Even on a vaccinated campus like ours, this rapid rise in cases requires that we take additional steps to mitigate transmission. In consultation with Knox Public Health, the COVID steering committee has recommended we make several temporary adjustments to our policies: keeping gatherings small and outdoors; shifting to takeout-only dining; wearing masks everywhere indoors, including residence halls; expanding our testing capacity on campus so that we can be sure students with symptoms are getting accurate test results. These and other steps, including expanding our isolation housing, will allow us to continue to provide efficient care. You will find details on our website, and I encourage you to review them closely. If you have questions, you may submit them to the COVID steering committee.
What else can you do? Wash your hands of course. But also consider wearing a mask even when you don’t have to. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you have symptoms, limit your interactions until you can get assessed or tested by a medical provider. And if you think you may be a close contact, please be patient with the case investigation process. Your first impulse may be to get an over-the-counter rapid antigen test, and some students have pursued this option, but keep in mind that they have a higher false-positive rate than the PCR tests administered by medical providers, and anyone who tests positive must complete the full 10 days of isolation, even if their result is later contradicted by a PCR test. We know that COVID is not the only upper-respiratory infection circulating on campus: a PCR test, together with a medical assessment, is the best way to distinguish between COVID and the Kenyon crud. It also ensures that quarantine, isolation and contact tracing can be initiated promptly. If you have symptoms please call or email the Cox Health and Counseling Center or another medical provider, and allow Knox Public Health to assess whether you are a close contact. On the weekends or after hours, call Campus Safety.
Finally, remember that, while this may feel like a step back, we are in a different place than we were last year. We are still living with COVID, and we must respond to changing conditions. But we are living with COVID, not under COVID. Last year, facing the pandemic with uncertain knowledge and no vaccine, we came through well because of shared commitment to keeping one another safe and healthy. The details of our situation have changed, but working together remains the key.