Yesterday, Moulton Union re-opened for lunch for the first time since closing last week after six positive COVID-19 cases emerged among the dining hall’s staff beginning April 6. After the initial case, the College began administering rapid antigen tests to Moulton employees, which led to the identification of four more positive cases.
The College made plans in case a situation like this were to occur after managing cases amongst dining hall staff members last semester.
“We were prepared for something like this to happen, we’ve been ready to pivot all semester because that’s the circumstances we’re in,” Kenneth Cardone, interim director of Dining Services, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We have a protocol in place. When someone tests positive who works in one of our dining halls, we closed the operation and transferred all the meals over to the other.”
After the initial positive case in Moulton, the College closed the dining hall for lunch on April 6 and conducted antigen tests for all Moulton dining employees before they could start working. After the third staffer tested positive on April 8, the College closed Moulton until the following day, which was then extended until April 15 after three more staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
“The combination of rapid antigen testing to quickly identify any infectious employee and the more sensitive PCR to detect cases before they become infectious is the key to limiting transmission,” Mike Ranen, COVID-19 resource coordinator, wrote in an email to the Orient.
This allowed the College to catch the outbreak early, before it could spread further.
Despite the positive dining outcomes this semester, risks are heightened in the dining hall setting with COVID-19, especially in Moulton Union, where close corridors make it especially challenging for workers to stay distanced. Still, staff are trying their best.
Izzy Miller ’23, a student employee at Moulton who worked with the person who originally tested positive, praised Bowdoin dining for their support.
“I found out that someone tested positive from my shift at Thorne the next day, and I was very scared—not only for me but my pod mates as well. That’s why I decided to self-quarantine and not take any shifts at Throne,” Miller said. “I think Moulton is doing the best they can. I love each shift I go to, but it’s a tight space and we have a lot to do.”