As students return to campus, LC confirms undergraduate COVID-19 case

Lewis & Clark recently announced its first case of the coronavirus on the undergraduate campus as student athletes and orientation leaders arrive on Palatine Hill. The student tested positive on Aug. 15 and one staff member was exposed. 

One student from the law campus tested positive in late March, but self-isolated off campus after first noticing symptoms. This was the first known positive case within the LC community, which the college considered low risk.

The Health Promotion and Wellness office is updating confirmed campus cases on a webpage that relies on self-reporting by those who test positive. According to LC administrators, staff followed proper protocol to quarantine the student and staff member.

Director of Public Relations Roy Kaufmann said the case was confirmed by an outside health care provider and that public health agencies were informed. The administration is confident that LC can control future cases.

“The positive case that was confirmed over the weekend demonstrated that the systems we have put in place are doing what they are designed to do,” Kaufmann said via email.

Eli Bricknell ’23 moved onto campus on Aug. 20, shortly after learning of the case. Bricknell is a New Student Orientation (NSO) leader and was alarmed by the positive diagnosis, but his worries have calmed since returning to campus.

“I was a little nervous about coming and the fact that I am literally across from the (quarantine) dorm,” Bricknell said. “(LC) is being smart about everything, but it freaked me out a little bit.”

After seeing students following mask and social distancing protocols, Bricknell said he “feels comfortable” being back on campus.

The confirmed status webpage was modeled after those of other institutions that LC has been in contact with. It also came about because the college is following the guidance of Gov. Kate Brown’s office, the Oregon Health Authority and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, among other authorities.

“(The webpage) is an approach many of our peer institutions are taking because we all recognize that a zero case count is statistically improbable,” Kaufmann said.

Britt Holmquist ’23 also expected to see cases on campus, but is concerned that one positive diagnosis has already been confirmed. She is also a NSO leader who moved in on Aug. 20.

“It kind of freaked me out, because there was such a small number of people on campus that the fact that there is already one case was jarring,” Holmquist said. “I knew that there would be cases that pop up, but seeing the first one is pretty unsettling.”

According to the LC website, within 24 hours of notification of a case report, a case review team will be assigned. The college plans to hire a lead contact tracer and three to five assistant contact tracers in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan announced the updated testing protocol in her newsletter on Aug. 21. LC plans to test all undergraduates attending classes in person during the week of Aug. 31. They will also test wastewater from dorms and campus hotspots for evidence of the coronavirus. The college also plans to administer periodic random testing throughout the semester. 

Both Bricknell and Holmquist were relieved that the college plans to test all undergraduate students on campus. Bricknell said testing information should have been released sooner.

“I am frustrated that information is being released so late,” Bricknell said. “But I still feel like in the long run, things will be okay and we will get our act together.”

Holmquist also said this information should have been released sooner. She said students are the “lab rats” in this scenario.

“We are definitely the ones testing out the policies that they have been thinking about,” Holmquist said. “It feels like they are just a couple steps behind where they should be.”

According to the COVID-19 status page, students should immediately report a positive diagnosis via the Health Information Portal, using the COVID Self-Check and Reporting Form. Employees who know of a positive diagnosis should inform Heyke Kirkendall-Baker, associate vice president and director for human resources.

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