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Holy Cross Director of COVID-19 Operations Speaks to Rising Cases on Campus

Davey Sullivan ‘22 

News Editor

Since the beginning of March, cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise at Holy Cross. Students were alerted the week of March 1st that there were 18 positive cases over the week and 100 close contacts in quarantine. Students were warned that orange alert level would be imminent if measures were not taken to curb the spread. 

This had come as a change to previous trends in COVID-19 cases at Holy Cross, as there had been only cases in the single digits each previous week since the campus moved from orange to yellow alert status. Metrics of testing compliance from both on and off-campus remains promising, with both over 90%, having risen over the previous few weeks. 

The update from the COVID Core Team informed students that another trend that is concerning is that the number of close contacts per individual positive case is rising. Under yellow level, close contacts should only be those who are direct roommates on campus. Employees who commute to campus are not allowed to come into contact with anyone else on campus. The metrics of quarantined close contacts, however, do not reflect compliance with this rule. 

A decrease in the amount of quarantine space, an increase in the positivity rate, and more close contacts will lead the campus to move back to the increased restrictions of orange alert.

Graphic by Davey Sullivan ’22.

David Shettler, Director of COVID-19 Operations at Holy Cross, spoke with the Spire on recent trends on campus. He commented, “The College’s COVID team is actively monitoring the state of the pandemic on campus. We look at metrics extensively throughout the week to identify specific trends, case clusters, and other relationships that emerge as the virus moves about. Over the past two weeks, cases have been rising steadily, and we’re keeping a close eye on it. Our ability to process this case volume is presently stable, as is our capacity to isolate and quarantine impacted students. We are below thresholds that would require us to take significant, large scale action, such as elevating to the Orange alert level.”

Despite the current stability, Mr. Shettler made it clear that there is still work to be done. He continued his earlier statement, “That being said, we have been having to ramp up our efforts as cases have risen every week for the last several weeks. If the trend continues, then Orange is inevitable. We’re not there yet, but one bad week could put us there quickly. As to what students and the community can do: The overwhelming majority of Holy Cross students have proven that they are doing their part. Keep it up, stay distanced, wear your mask, practice hand hygiene, report symptoms, test twice weekly, and be truthful to contact tracers. Now is the time to stay vigilant and not let our guards down.”

Mr. Shettler also acknowledged the changing national landscape with COVID-19 restrictions in his response. He said, “Yes, restrictions are lifting all around us, but a congregate setting like a residential College campus is not the same as other settings that can afford to ease off; our cases are not in decline. Students live in close proximity to one another, eat together, study together, and your friend networks are larger. COVID spreads easily this way. We’re effectively one large household, and if you’ve seen COVID in any family member households, you know how hard it is to avoid. But if we all follow the guidelines and rules, we’ll get through this term successfully.”

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