NEW LONDON — Connecticut College reported that 169 of its students tested positive for COVID-19 last week, after several gatherings in crowded spaces that led to a “chain reaction” of viral spread, according to epidemiologists from the Department of Public Health.
The number represents the highest cases reported in a single week at Connecticut College since the college began regularly testing students for COVID-19 in August of 2020. The students are tested twice weekly.
Victor Arcelus, dean of students at the college, said in a message to the community on Saturday that the college was starting to show a downward trajectory on cases.
According to Arcelus, a total of ninety students tested positive for COVID on Monday and Tuesday of last week, an additional 13 tested positive on Wednesday, and a combined total of 64 positive tests on Thursday and Friday. Two more students tested positive Saturday.
According to the college website, the majority of students who tested positive were vaccinated. The college said that epidemiologists from the Department of Public Health attribute the large number of cases to student gatherings in overcrowded spaces such as a local bar, in apartments on campus and in rooms in the residence halls.
“Given that the crowds included symptomatic people, the virus spread to others at a level that overwhelmed the protective capacity of the vaccine,” the college reported on its website. “This transmission started a chain reaction of people picking up the virus and then passing it on to others in more settings where masks were not being worn.”
The college did not respond to questions about how many of the positive students were unvaccinated, and how many were commuters versus residential students.
Tiffany Thiele, a spokesperson for the college, said in an email last week that while some students have “reported mild symptoms” no one has been hospitalized. Thiele said that between 98 and 99 percent of students on campus are vaccinated.
Last Tuesday, the college shifted to a level-three alert status. Classes moved online and students were only allowed in their own residence halls, on their own floors. The library, coffee shops and campus centers were closed, athletic practices were suspended and dining services were take-out only.
Theile said in an email on Monday that students who had tested positive for COVID were being housed in isolation spaces on campus and in local hotels that the college created partnerships with over the summer.
In his message, Arcelus said that the measures the college put in place worked to stop further spread of the virus.
“What we are seeing thus far is that we did not allow time for the cases to grow over the course of the week, and instead got right to work as a community to bring the case numbers down,” Arcelus wrote. He encouraged students to keep following the protocols that the college put in place.
Arcelus said he expected the combined results of this Monday’s and Tuesday’s tests to be less than 64 positive cases. The college is planning to relax its restrictions outdoors, and the library has reopened as of Monday morning. Arcelus said the college plans to open more indoor spaces early this week.