Illustration by Maya Winshelll

COVID-19 updates: positivity rates rise above fall average

As of Feb. 3, Lewis & Clark’s 2,333 on-campus COVID-19 tests returned eight positive results, for an on-campus positivity rate of 0.36% over the past two weeks, not counting an additional off-campus positive test. Eight undergraduates — half of them residential students — and a contract worker tested positive. All were directed to self-isolate and close contacts were quarantined. Graduate and law students all tested negative.

In comparison, the 2,781 on-campus tests administered during the entire fall semester returned six on-campus positive tests — a number reached less than a month into the spring semester — for an on-campus positivity rate of 0.22%. Nine off-campus positive tests and one visitor who subsequently tested positive raised the total number of positive tests with campus impact to 16. 

LC’s current two-week average positivity rate of 0.36% remains well below the one-week moving average positivity rates of Oregon (4.0%) and the United States (7.9%), according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Test positivity rates in Oregon and the United States do not necessarily reflect the percentage of the population that is sick, since only those individuals who get tested are counted in the positivity rate. 

Weekly clinics at LC will continue conducting surveillance testing in order to find potential cases among students and employees.

Other on-campus COVID-19 updates include:

Enhanced social distancing: LC began the spring semester with enhanced social distancing, which relaxed once test results came in. However, the college is prepared to reinstate the policy if necessary. Enhanced social distancing goes beyond the normal procedure of wearing a mask in public, remaining six feet away from others and frequent hand washing. It includes stricter protocol, including limiting in-person interactions to roommates only and staying in your room unless necessary to collect food or mail, use the restroom or exercise outdoors. 

Quarantine dorm expansion: Hartzfeld Halls A and B have been used as quarantine dorms for students who tested positive last semester. The college expanded the quarantine dorm space to include Hartzfeld C shortly after students came back this semester, causing some students to move on short notice. Due to the housing of infected students, there will be no effluent testing of the sewer system that includes Hartzfeld and Holmes, according to John Hancock, chief psychologist and associate dean of students for health and wellness.  

New PCR test vendor: LC decided to switch to Meenta labs for PCR saliva testing this semester. Instead of using plastic bags with student identification information, each testing vial has a barcode that test administrators scan to connect the vial with their information. Some students reported having to take additional PCR tests upon re-entry because there were flaws in the scanning process. Other students were also incorrectly informed by Student Rights and Responsibilities that they had missed the testing clinic and would be required to test with a fee.

Vaccine rollout: At Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan’s webinar on Jan. 22, Holmes-Sullivan said the college does not expect vaccine rollout for students this semester. LC has not been informed by the state of Oregon when the college can participate in vaccination efforts. Though Oregon’s vaccination schedule identifies college students as a special group of interest due to the nature of communal living, many college students are young and healthy.

Positive wastewater tests: Effluent samples in Platt-Howard and Ponderosa/Spruce/Juniper/West Halls returned positive on Jan. 29. Students in these dorms went to a testing clinic on Feb. 2 at the Agnes Flanagan Chapel, but no additional restrictions have been placed on their social behavior at this time. One of the positive tests recorded from entry testing was from Howard Hall, which could have contributed to the positive effluent sample from Platt-Howard.

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