Dear Kenyon community,
We wanted to update everyone on the progress of our expanded testing efforts.
On Saturday, Sept. 4, 67 students attended our optional testing clinic that was reserved for symptomatic students. Of those 67 tests, 8 were positive, or a 12% positivity rate. While this rate is high, it is important to keep in mind both that these were all students reporting COVID-like symptoms, and that it means that the vast majority (88%) of students with symptoms were not positive for COVID. Again, this reinforces the fact that more than one upper respiratory illness, such as the common cold and flu, is circulating on campus.
Campus-wide compulsory testing began on Wednesday, Sept. 8, and in addition to students with last names A-E, students identified as close contacts of previous cases and students with symptoms were also instructed to report for testing. We tested 544 students. An additional 400 students were tested on Thursday. Testing continues today and will conclude on Monday.
Results from 541 of Wednesday’s tests yielded a further 35 positive results, or a 6.5% positivity rate. The Cox Center is reaching out to these students to assess whether they are symptomatic; we know that nine of them are close contacts of previous cases. With results from more tests arriving this evening or tomorrow morning, we expect more positive cases, though hopefully at a lower rate since tests from Thursday and Friday should largely not include symptomatic students and close contacts.
This brings our campus total to 102 student cases since the start of the semester, and 61 of these cases remain active, beyond our capacity to isolate students outside their residence. Thus, some students will need to isolate in their room, or if they can do so safely, travel home. Any roommates of positive students are considered close contacts, and if symptomatic, they should remain quarantined in their room, wear their masks at all times, and limit their contact with other students as much as possible. Symptomatic students who are not close contacts should do the same.
Breakthrough infections are to be expected in any vaccinated population, but we understand that the number reported over the past week is unsettling. It is important to keep in mind that some of these cases may represent people who were exposed to COVID this summer and never knew it; they are no longer contagious. Some of them are actively infected. And while no one ever expected the vaccine to keep our campus completely free of COVID, it is doing its job to prevent serious illness. No students have required hospitalization and symptoms have generally been mild to moderate.
We continue to track conditions on campus and in the region closely. Like many parts of the country, Knox County is seeing more cases now than it did during earlier peaks of the pandemic, and its health systems are at capacity. The steps Kenyon has taken to mitigate transmission are more important than ever, and we appreciate everyone’s partnership in this effort.
We will report again to the community when we have a full view of our baseline testing next week. In the meantime, you will find additional information and answers to frequently asked questions on the Kenyon website.
Associate Provost and Professor of Biology
Chair of the COVID-19 Steering Committee