Just over a week after Union College students returned to campus for winter term, Union officials on Sunday said the college would go into two-week “campus quarantine” in the face of rising COVID-19 case numbers on campus.
Union President David Harris in a video posted Sunday cited an apparent surge in cases on campus since students returned, noting the school counted 27 cases among students and seven cases among staff during the first week of winter term. Those cases come on top of new cases the college counted while testing upon their return to campus – more cases among students than the college registered all last term. When the college’s COVID dashboard updated Sunday night, the college had identified 51 student positives since Jan. 1.
Harris said the cases likely emerged in residence halls and other student social spaces, suggesting cases were spreading on campus.
“The most likely conclusion is that most of these 27 student positives reflect exposure after returning to campus,” Harris said in the video before outlining the college’s campus quarantine. “It is our shared and resolute opinion that the best course of action is a two-week campus quarantine.”
The quarantine, which started at 5 p.m. Sunday, prohibits students who live on campus from leaving campus without permission. The college planned to increase its testing of students to twice weekly, extend mask-wearing requirements to student dorm rooms and further limit visitors in residence halls. College officials also stressed consequences for students who did not comply with the expanded precautions and limitations, promising to shift students to all-remote instruction if they violated the campus quarantine.
“This situation is serious, but it is our firm belief… that with immediate, aggressive action and sacrifice by all, we can preserve an on-campus winter term,” college officials wrote in a message to students Sunday.
Students have yet to return to campus at most colleges in the Capital Region, and many schools have delayed the start of in-person instruction for the spring semester until next month, but Union utilizes a different academic calendar and restarts with a winter term shortly after Jan.1.
The college reported 53 active cases as of Saturday and 103 students in quarantine. Out of nearly 1,000 tests results on Saturday, the college returned 12 positive results.