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More than a dozen Williams College students will be stuck in quarantine as their peers head home for Thanksgiving.

The college’s COVID-19 case count, which has remained low most of the semester, ticked up by three Tuesday. Two students tested positive, along with one staff member who has been working remotely.

Now, those students are in isolation, with about 15 of their close contacts in quarantine, according to Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. That marks the largest number of students in quarantine at one time since the semester began, she said.

The students in isolation can leave after 10 days, as long as they exhibit no symptoms. Quarantined students also will be able to head out after 10 days, if they test negative on or after day eight, because of a recent change to state guidance shrinking the original two-week period.

Even that reduction will not save the holidays. The students went into quarantine Tuesday night, Sandstrom said, only nine days before Thanksgiving.

“The big bummer is, these students have really been looking forward to going wherever it is they’re going, “ she said.

Deans have reached out to each affected student individually to offer support, Sandstrom said, marking a change in the college’s quarantine policy. Students had criticized what they saw as limited communication from the college throughout the quarantine process, according to reporting from The Williams Record.

“We learned when we talked to several of the students that they really would have appreciated a more proactive reaching-out,” Sandstrom said.

Students are allowed to finish quarantine off campus, as long as they can travel directly to their destination, in their own car.

In an email to the campus Wednesday, Sandstrom reminded students that testing positive would disrupt their travel plans and urged them to self-quarantine.

The good news, Sandstrom said, is the two most recent cases appear to be isolated. She told The Eagle that “there’s no obvious source” of virus transmission connecting the students.

“We’ve had a very low number of cases this semester, but each of them have been somewhat a mystery,” she said. “None have been linked to each other, so we really haven’t seen spread on campus.”

The school performed more than 42,000 tests this semester. There were 10 positive results — seven among students, and three among faculty and staff.

“Students don’t always follow every rule, but they have been phenomenally responsible overall,” Sandstrom said. “I think that’s why we’ve seen the relatively low number of cases we had.”

Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 510-207-2535.


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