Brendan W. Clark ’21
The Tripod has independently confirmed from several sources, including students in isolation, that at least seven additional students have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been moved to quarantine facilities since Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina’s announcement of a 21-case count increase Wednesday evening. That would bring Trinity’s total active case count to at least 28 as of Saturday, Oct. 10.
The Tripod has also confirmed with an infected student that Clemens, a dormitory in the Crescent Street residential neighborhood on campus, has been activated as an additional isolation space. The Tripod believes that at least two students are in quarantine at the facility.
Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas has previously confirmed that the capacity of Doonesbury is 31 students and told the Tripod Thursday that the College believes it “can accommodate the students who would need to be isolated” and stated that they will “consider other facilities and even off-campus options” if needed. The College declined to indicate to the Tripod which facilities were under consideration for overflow use.
In addition, the Tripod has been unable to confirm a further seven cases on top of the seven independently confirmed, which would represent a 14-case increase and place Trinity at 35 active cases. Trinity has not updated its COVID-19 dashboard since Wednesday evening.
The Tripod reached out to the College Saturday afternoon to confirm these reports. Rojas acknowledged receipt of the inquiry and indicated that the College would respond via a “message to the community.”
It was not immediately clear when the dashboard would be updated, though the College has indicated that it intends to provide updates on Mondays and Thursdays.
Trinity moved to the “orange” alert level after the significant 21-case increase Wednesday evening, which resulted in a series of new restrictions on student gathering and socialization on-campus in an effort to contain the virus. These restrictions included the suspension of in-person dining, the shift of the library to operate by appointment only, and the suspension of athletics practices.
When asked Thursday what would prompt the College to shift to the “red” alert level or suspend all in-person classes indefinitely, Director of Media Relations Stacy Sneed indicated that those decisions are “based on a number of considerations with a focus on the prevalence of the virus on campus (the number of positive tests, the rate of positivity within our testing, the number of individuals in quarantine or isolation, etc.) in combination with other factors external to campus.” Sneed did not indicate if conversations about a shift to “red” had taken place, noting that it “wouldn’t be productive to detail a specific threshold as a basis for decision making.”
The College also declined Thursday to confirm Tripod reports on the move of an entire house of students on Vernon Street and the involvement of certain athletic teams in Wednesday’s 21-case increase. Sneed did indicate that impacted students resided in “on-campus housing and off-campus housing” and stressed that the College “will not comment on questions that could reveal the identity of small groups of students.”
Trinity also declined Thursday to identify the increase as an outbreak, instead indicating that the College has “confirmed cases on campus” and stressing that Trinity’s Hartford Healthcare Infectious Disease specialist “believes our efforts to quarantine and isolate are the best steps to help mitigate the virus.” Trinity has previously declined to reveal the identity of its specialist to the Tripod, citing privacy as the specialist is not a Trinity employee.
The College would not indicate if the recent outbreak was related to athletic practices, noting that the College continues “to conduct contract [sic] tracing to determine the nexus of these cases so we can make informed decisions on whether follow-up actions are necessary.”
Multiple individuals have confirmed to the Tripod that members of particular athletic teams are among the majority of those in isolation, though whether cases were contracted at social events or practices remains unclear. While athletic practices have been suspended under the “orange” alert level, the College would not comment if those activities would be suspended indefinitely if they were found to be the source of the increase. Trinity did note that it is “continually evaluating and reviewing options that will help keep our students and employees safe” and that decisions “are based on active conditions.”
On Wednesday, DiChristina indicated that contact tracing had identified 55 individuals who would be moved into isolation. When asked if the College would provide an update on the total number of individuals in isolation following the completion of contact tracing, Sneed notes that “as in past cases…we will continue to communicate with our community about updates and best practices to jeep our community educated and safe.”
This is a developing story and the Tripod will update as more information becomes available.