Carroll College is reporting 68 new cases of COVID-19 since Oct. 8, bringing the college's total number of active cases to 70.
The large spike in cases is largely due to asymptomatic testing that took place throughout the week of Oct. 12 at the college, according to vice president of enrollment management Chato Hazelbaker. Of these positive cases, one was a part time employee and the remainder were students. Of these positive tests, approximately 48 were directly identified by asymptomatic testing.
"Initially, we were focusing our testing on specific populations but have expanded that to include the entire student body," Hazelbaker said. "We extended testing hours and the number of days we offered testing. Nearly all of our positive results this week are students who had no symptoms and went through our initial testing."
With a total headcount of 1,123 students, about 6.1% of the Carroll student population currently has COVID-19. Hazelbaker said every day the administration is seeing fewer positive tests come back. On Friday, zero asymptomatic tests came back positive.
Hazelbaker said the college hopes that by identifying these students who are carriers of the virus while showing no symptoms, community spread can be further limited. The college is using a lab outside Montana and conducting the testing on campus, which has allowed the administration to get a sense of the spread on campus very quickly, get students into isolation and further limit the spread.
When a student receives a positive test result, that person is quickly put into isolation and close contacts are identified. The college then works with Lewis and Clark Public Health, which conducts contact tracing and provides the student with guidance on what to do in isolation and how long that lasts. Throughout isolation, Carroll College staff delivers meals to those students who have a meal plan and checks in with all students regularly. Students are also allowed to continue coursework.
"Because we have invested time and effort this summer in training with faculty, they are prepared to use technology to make sure these students are full participants in class despite being in isolation or quarantine," Hazelbaker said.
The college will continue asymptomatic testing throughout the term. The plan is currently to conduct tests on Monday and Tuesday at least, said Hazelbaker. Thus far, the college has made the move to close facilities where larger groups might gather, such as the Hunthausen Activity Center and student lounges.
"We have also asked students to remain on campus or in their homes as much as possible," Hazelbaker said. "As we look to the results of Thursday and Friday's testing, complete contact tracing and move into the next week, we will make further adjustments."
The administration is currently working closely with the Associated Students of Carroll College to plan a campus-wide forum with students on COVID-19 Monday, Oct. 19.
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