Brendan W. Clark ’21
Trinity College reported an increase of 21 active COVID-19 cases over a two-day period Wednesday evening, the largest increase since the College began reporting cases in August. Concurrently, in a message to the community Wednesday evening, Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina raised the College’s alert level to “orange” and suspended in-person classes through Tuesday, Oct. 13.
It was not immediately clear what had prompted the increase in cases or what specific group of students was involved. DiChristina’s email indicated that the individuals who tested positive “live in different locations on and off campus.” However, DiChristina went on to suggest that the cases “appear to be connected” and that they are “mostly among students who live together in off-campus apartments/housing.” Several infected students were “reporting minor symptoms” as of Wednesday evening.
Several sources have independently confirmed to the Tripod that students with active cases in this reported increase include several sophomores who reside at an off-campus residence and members of College athletic teams that reside primarily in off-campus team housing on Vernon Street.
The Tripod has also independently confirmed that several members of the Trinity men’s lacrosse team were among those who tested positive and had been moved to isolation. Athletic team practices had been authorized to move forward Sept. 18 for spring and fall teams as the Tripod previously reported.
While “most of the students will remain in isolation in a separate building on campus,” some have “decided to return home,” DiChristina added. DiChristina did not indicate what building the College would use, though previous students have been quarantined in the Doonesbury dormitory on Vernon Street. The College has previously confirmed that Doonesbury has a maximum capacity of 31 students.
An additional 55 students were in self-quarantine as a result of contact tracing efforts and DiChristina expected the number to “rise over the next day as contact tracing continues.” It was not immediately clear if the College considers this an outbreak or if it would provide additional updates on the total number of students contacted as a result of contact tracing efforts. That number is not available on the College’s COVID-19 dashboard, which was also updated Wednesday evening—breaking from the College’s previous decision to only update twice a week on Monday and Thursday morning—as a result of the increase.
In addition to suspending in-person classes, dining was moved to grab-and-go only, the library was shuttered except by appointment, and athletic facilities were closed. DiChristina also indicated that students would have access only to their individual residence hall floor and that common areas would be closed.
Non-essential College employees were also instructed not to report to work Thursday and Cinestudio was closed as a result of the shift to the “orange” alert level. However, the College’s COVID-19 testing center will remain open, and students were instructed by DiChristina to continue with their regularly scheduled tests.
The shift to orange was the result of a “rapid increase in the number of active cases on our campus over the past 48 hours and the number of individuals in isolation and quarantine as a result of those cases,” DiChristina added.
The Tripod has previously been investigating three independently confirmed cases Wednesday afternoon. When asked for comment, Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas indicate that he had “identified additional cases since Monday and will update the community as soon as we have complete information regarding pending test results.”
The College’s amended visitor policy, announced on Sept. 30 in response to a decrease in cases, was also believed to have been suspended. That policy would have allowed the Toronto FC soccer team and certain other approved, off-campus groups to utilize campus space for practices. It also permitted the Admissions Office to resume certain in-person activities. Rojas, in the announcement, noted that the policy would only apply “when the college is operating under Green or Yellow status.”
Trinity had managed to contain its last outbreak stemming from the Jones dormitory in mid-September, when 9 students tested positive over a two-day period and the College reached a peak of 15 active cases. Trinity had reduced its active case count to zero as of Monday, despite a quarantine imposed on the Psi U fraternity last week.
The Tripod reached out to DiChristina and Rojas for comment Thursday morning after the publication of this article and received responses, which were included in a report on additional COVID cases this weekend.