Kip Lynch ’22
Trinity College’s COVID-19 alert level was raised to yellow Wednesday afternoon in response to an increase of nine confirmed, positive cases since Monday according to an email from the College’s Dean of Campus Life and Vice President for Student Affairs Joe DiChristina.
DiChristina’s email indicated that he knows “of 15 active cases among our community, 13 of which are students who are now in isolation in a separate building on campus,” reflecting an increase of nine active cases over the previous two days.
Those students are “feeling well,” DiChristina added. The other two active cases are a student who is isolating at home and an employee who tested positive last week. Trinity updated its COVID-19 dashboard to reflect this increase Wednesday. Trinity had previously had only eight positive cases since the start of the semester two weeks ago.
The yellow alert level follows the administration’s decision Tuesday afternoon to institute a “24-hour stay in place” order and lockdown for the first floor of Jones Dormitory after two confirmed COVID-19 cases yesterday. It was not immediately clear if the College had extended the Jones lockdown to other floors of the dormitory.
The College did not respond to Tripod requests for comment relative to the Jones cases and no official notice was sent to the entire community about the incident until Wednesday afternoon.
DiChristina indicated Wednesday that “Contact tracing protocols for two cases that emerged yesterday (Tuesday) resulted in our testing and quarantining of the residents of one floor in Jones Hall and several other students in various locations. We now have more than 40 students in quarantine in their residences on or near campus.”
Yesterday, in his email to Jones’ residents, DiChristina noted that there were two additional suspected cases that the Health Center was investigating on the first floor. It was not immediately clear if those two cases were among those who had tested positive Wednesday afternoon.
Students who are quarantined in their residence merely for potential contact are directed to stay in their exclusive room. This also applies to quads, which may contain other non-quarantining roommates who continue to attend classes and interact with others on-campus.
The College’s focus at this point is in moving swiftly to contain the spread of the virus on campus, according to DiChristina. Seven of the positive test results came in just this morning from tests conducted yesterday and Monday.
“The individuals who tested positive in recent days live in different locations across campus,” DiChristina noted. “Tracing suggests that a high percentage of the cases is a result of the virus spreading through contact in residence halls,” the College contended.
While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that outbreak declarations rely on local definitions, the CDC suggests that an outbreak may have occurred when “two or more contacts are identified as having active COVID-19, regardless of their assigned priority” or when “two or more patients with COVID-19 are discovered to be linked, and the linkage is established outside of a case investigation and contact tracing.”
Trinity will “remain in alert level yellow or higher” for the next week and that the College is taking steps to limit the spread of the virus, including eliminating any seating inside dining facilities and limiting students’ access to the floor of their own residence within residence halls with common areas now closed.
Yellow alert levels, instituted as part of Trinity’s return-to-campus plan in August, restrict employee presence to 50% capacity, impose restrictions on employee essential travel to cabinet-level authorization, and also place restrictions on the hours of operation for the post office. Personal travel is also “strongly discouraged” at this level, though how that requirement is enforced remains unclear.
Trinity has brought back the majority of its undergraduate students, nearly 2,000, to the Hartford campus, in contrast to other schools which have elected to bring back certain class years on alternating-semester schedules.
The Tripod reached out to DiChristina and Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas for comment following the publication of this article. Neither was immediately available.