Davey Sullivan ‘22
On Thursday, February 25, the COVID Core Team announced that an outbreak of COVID-19 had been pinpointed as occurring in Brooks Hall. This outbreak comes after multiple consecutive days without any cases on campus at all.
Brooks Hall is the largest residence hall at Holy Cross, housing over 450 first year students and two apartments for Holy Cross staff. Currently, there are no forced triples in the hall, although there are during regular residence operations.
According to the Holy Cross COVID-19 Dashboard, there were 10 positive cases during the week of February 22-26. The COVID Core Team did not announce any numbers of cases from Brooks Hall, but it is presumed that the majority were from Brooks. This brings the number of estimated active cases on campus at Holy Cross to 19 cases.
When the College learned of the outbreak, the hall was placed on lockdown and all students were instructed to get tested immediately. Students were allowed to leave Brooks for food and testing only. The quarantine lasted for only 24 hours for most students, and a third party team of cleaners was brought in to disinfect common spaces, including restrooms, common rooms, and doors.
On the morning of Saturday, February 27, the quarantine was lifted for almost the entire building. One wing, the 4th floor girls wing, remained in lockdown. Residents were moved to the Holiday Inn Express in Worcester to continue quarantine.
Kelsey DeVoe, the Director of Health Services at Holy Cross, spoke with The Spire in regard to the Brooks outbreak. She said, “COVID spreads quickly because there is a 48 hour period BEFORE you have symptoms or you test positive. Once we have a positive case, there likely has already been some transmission to other contacts in that 48 hour period. This is why speedy quarantine is so important. If any of the close contacts are going to convert to positive, we want them to be in quarantine so they don’t expose others to the virus. This prevents an exponential growth of positive cases. When you see a number of cases in one specific area you worry that you have community spread. The easiest way to contain this spread and assess the situation is to contain everyone and limit their exposure to others, and test quickly. We were really impressed with the response from Brooks residents, everyone really stepped up to keep the campus safe. By getting everyone tested and reducing close contact with others, we were able to assess how much community spread we were seeing, and contain the specific group that was showing signs of community spread.”
DeVoe also provided the following advice to members of the Holy Cross community following the Brooks outbreak: “I’d encourage everyone to take this as a learning opportunity on how quickly COVID can spread if we’re not careful. Always wear your mask if you’re outside your room, limit your number of close contacts by finding safe ways to spend time with people, 6 feet apart, and outside is always better! And make sure you report any symptoms to Health Services as soon as you develop them.”