On Wednesday, the COVID-19 Core Team communicated changes to campus masking policy in light of an increase in COVID-19 cases on campus. Last week, 24 new cases were detected, which increased the 14-day campus positive rate to 1.06%. Between March 4 and the evening of March 9, 55 new cases were reported through on-campus rapid antigen testing and self-reported cases, leading to a 14-day campus positive rate above 3%.
As per the COVID-19 Core Team’s decision making framework, a 14-day campus positive rate between 3% and 4% mandates masking in all indoor spaces, except for students in their own residence hall room or house. The framework also recommends limiting large in-person indoor gatherings, opting for grab-and-go dining and limiting off-campus travel to essential activities only. The traditional Late Night Breakfast event scheduled for March 13 was also canceled to mitigate further spread of the virus.
The campus-wide email sent out on Wednesday by the COVID-19 Core Team indicated that “social gatherings continue to be the primary source of transmission.” This increase in the 14-day positive rate is the greatest spike since January 14, when 92 new cases were reported, leading to a 6.88% positivity rate.
The Fairfield Inn, a hotel across the river, is one designated quarantine space for Carleton students who test positive. Because of the case increase in such a short period of time, some students who test positive are being placed in single-bed rooms with roommates. Becky Reinhold ’25 is one student who, until Thursday, was quarantining on the Fairfield’s third floor, which is designated for positive students.
“I’m quarantined in the Fairfield in a one bedroom with another student, and my only real problem with it is that I’ve been sleeping on a pullout couch and it’s really not comfortable, which hasn’t been helping me feel better. I think that a lot of the quarantine spaces are full, so if I were to guess, that’s why they’re putting multiple students in rooms with one bed.”
Another student quarantining at the Fairfield, Neenah Bosman ’24, shares a one-bedroom room. She described her experience moving into the quarantine space and the communication she has with college administration.
“My experience hasn’t been all that bad so far. The process of moving out of my room then into my isolation space after the horrible stress I felt from a positive test result was really overwhelming. There’s really nothing I have experienced that can compare to that feeling. I have gotten lots of messages from SHAC and administration, which under normal circumstances would be appreciated, but I am just so exhausted with the constant back-and-forth with people I haven’t even met.”
Bosman described the third floor of the Fairfield as “basically just a mass isolation floor” and said that she is “just trying to get through it like the rest of third Fairfield. Hoping for that negative test on day eight.”
Many of the other quarantine houses on campus are also full. Amelia Watt ’25 was placed at 107 College St with two housemates. Unlike some of those in single rooms at the Fairfield, students in quarantine houses on campus have a bit more living space. Watt says:
“The house is actually pretty spacious, so we all can have our own space if needed. So far, my experience hasn’t been terrible, other than feeling under the weather of course. It’s been great to get to know my housemates, especially since one is an upperclassman who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Students who test positive in the days before spring break will have to stay in Northfield between five and ten days, or until they receive a negative test. Watt hopes to test negative and be released from quarantine before her flight out.
“Thankfully, I should get out of quarantine the day before my flight is scheduled to leave! Although I know lots of people whose travel plans have been affected by being put in quarantine.”
On March 11, Sigrid Edstrom ’24 sent Carletonian staff the following image from the Cave, Carleton’s student-run music and entertainment venue.
“Yesterday I tested positive for COVID and was not told my isolation assignment until 20 hours later the next day,” said Edstrom. “During that 20 hours I was expected to self isolate in my triple (where my two other roommate are not COVID positive). Finally this afternoon I was told to go to the Cave to isolate there where I then took this photo. I understand the weird situation the COVID team is in right now with the unprecedented amount of cases, but the isolation process is already so uncomfortable and unsettling and sleeping on a twin cot in the Cave does not help at all.”
The Carleton Rapid Test Site remains open daily through the last day of final exams for those who experience symptoms or are identified as close contacts. Rapid tests will be available for students through March 17 to self-administer before leaving campus for spring break.