In an email to the campus community yesterday, COVID-19 Resource Coordinator Mike Ranen announced that the College would be moving to status Yellow effective immediately. The decision was made after 14 students tested positive for COVID-19 over the last two days. Dining halls will be open for take-out service only, and the current indoor mask mandate, initially set to expire on Saturday, will be both extended indefinitely and expanded to include public spaces inside students’ own residence halls.
“We all want to go back to normal, so we ask people to really take this seriously. We’re not doing this to punish students … we’re doing this to reduce interaction and reduce exposure,” Ranen said. “We’re hoping that these restrictions, instead of getting into the weeds about it, will get students thinking about their interactions over the next few days. That’s the horizon that we have in mind. The next few days are going to be crucial.”
Ranen said that, of the 18 currently active cases on campus, 15 of them are identified as being related due to the College’s contact tracing program, with 13 of those 15 being located in Coles Tower.
“We think that four people brought [COVID-19] to campus, and one of those spread to a lot of other people,” Ranen said. “For the first three positive cases, we have not seen evidence of [community] transmission.”
Yesterday morning, every resident and housekeeper in Coles Tower was asked to take a self-administered antigen test, and every resident who was not scheduled to take a PCR test on that day will be required to take another self-administered antigen test Friday alongside their scheduled PCR test.
Along with the 18 currently active positive cases, Ranen wrote in his email that 46 students have so far been identified through contact tracing as close contacts. All close contacts will be antigen tested with a self-administered test daily for the “next few days,” Ranen said.
14 of the 18 currently confirmed positive cases were identified by antigen test. Per College policy, a known contact who receives a positive antigen test does not require a confirmatory PCR test to be considered an active case.
Consistent with the campus status guidelines posted on the Bowdoin website, the switch to status Yellow will have no impact on club meetings or other masked gatherings in non-residential indoor common spaces.
Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan also confirmed that moving to status Yellow would have no effect on scheduled athletic practices or events, although masks will be required during indoor practices, in locker rooms and on bus rides.
Dining Services was informed that they would have to switch to grab-and-go service just hours before opening for dinner. However, Interim Director Ken Cardone said that the short turnaround was not an issue for him and his staff.
“We actually planned for this,” Cardone said. “We have plenty of supplies of takeout containers on the premises … Given the nature of COVID-19, you need to be ready to make those changes quickly.”
Along with moving to grab-and-go dining, the second major change in addition to the Yellow status level guidelines is an extension of and addition to the current indoor mask mandate, which was initially set to expire on September 4.
“The two caveats [to the original mask mandate] are when people are actively eating [indoors] and when they’re in their own residential [space],” Ranen said. “We’re [now] asking people to wear masks unless they’re in their own private residential space—in their apartment. We’re not permitting private gatherings, either in residence halls or off-campus residences.”
Although the current restrictions do not allow private gatherings, students are still allowed to host one guest per resident in their room. Guests must wear a mask in common spaces or bedrooms, while hosts are not required to. For example, eight students living together in a Park Row apartment are technically allowed to have eight people over at once; however, this is not recommended.
“Please use common sense precautions,” Ranen said. “We know that this isn’t easy for our campus, which is so excited to be back … [but] we want to make sure we can follow these restrictions to get back to [status level] Green as soon as we can.”
Reuben Schafir contributed to this report.