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VP Carey: University feels “confident” moving to modified Campus Activity Level 2 as positive cases remain “relatively steady”

Asymptomatic testing returned 29 positives this week, University opens for in-person classes

Twenty-nine COVID-19 tests returned positive this week for University members enrolled in the asymptomatic testing program, of which 21 were students and eight were employees, according to Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06.

The number of positive cases per week remains “relatively steady,” Carey told The Herald Thursday. While this week returned a slightly higher number than the previous week, which saw 19 positive cases from Jan. 17 to Jan. 24, there were fewer cases than the 37 positives in the first week of students’ arrival from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17.

Some of the positive cases can be attributed to University members who have just arrived to campus, Carey said. Late arrivals are largely due to students having to quarantine at home because of COVID-19 exposure before departing, or faculty members transitioning from teaching remotely to teaching in-person. 

In-person instruction for classes of 19 students or fewer was approved to begin Wednesday as part of the University’s transition to a modified Campus Activity Level 2, The Herald previously reported

The COVID-19 Campus Activity Level review team looks at daily COVID-19 data and meets twice a week to discuss the numbers as well as contact tracing investigations. The team uses this information to determine if there is evidence of spread on campus, Carey said. Decisions around moving forward or reverting back an Activity Level are based on a “holistic review, … not one set of numbers or thresholds,” he added. 

“We felt comfortable with testing positivity rates that continue to be quite low, (the) general experience on campus and that the Quiet Period went really well,” Carey, who is a member of the COVID-19 Campus Activity Level review team, said. The community has adhered to the safety precautions and the measures recommended to reduce COVID-19 risk, “and that made us confident that we (could) move to this step,” he added.

The University decided to move to a modified Level 2 rather than wait until all Level 2 activities could be authorized to allow for in-person classes, Carey said. “Academic mission takes priority over everything,” he said, adding that the classroom environment is also a “more controlled” setting to maintain social distancing and mask practices.

Faculty were made aware months in advance that, if conditions permit, in-person instruction would become possible in the second week of classes, which allowed them time to prepare, Carey said. “We had a lot of success with in-person classes last term, so I feel very confident that will continue.”

“In terms of getting to Level 3, I think our focus right now is on increasing flexibility within Level 2,” Carey said. The University is “focusing on getting in-person classes,” and depending on its success, “hopefully, we can continue to open up more opportunities.”


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