Colby College students in Waterville walk near Cotter Union, in the background, after the announcement March 12 that students needed to start moving off campus by March 15 and resume classes remotely later this month through online courses, in response to the spread of coronavirus. Morning Sentinel file photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — Colby College says it has five confirmed cases of coronavirus from its community, following an announcement a week ago of its first case.

“As of March 26, 2020, we are aware of five community members who tested positive for COVID-19,” Colby reported on its website. “Each of the test-positive individuals provided a list of individuals with whom they had contact, and all of those individuals were notified.”

According to a notice college officials sent Tuesday to the community, at least two cases involved Colby students.

It was not immediately clear whether the new cases were connected with Colby’s first confirmed case on March 19, which the college’s dean said involved a staff member from the athletic department. That first case came a week after the college first announced students would need to try to leave campus in the coming days.

Students have been on a two-week spring break and are scheduled to resume classes remotely through online learning  Monday. Late last week, Colby officials said there were “fewer than 100 students” remaining on campus and that number would continue to decline, depending on travel availability.

Statewide on Wednesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 142 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness. By Thursday, the Maine CDC was reporting 155 cases statewide, with now six cases in Kennebec County.

Last week, the only other specific case known in Kennebec County, in addition to the one reported at Colby, involved a staff member at the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office in Augusta.

 

“Colby has been monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19, using all available resources, since it was first reported,” the college said on its website. “The College continues to work closely with health and government agencies closely monitoring the developing situation with respect to the spread of the disease.”

Colby’s dean said last week that the person who was the college’s first positive case had been isolated at home and was reporting “relatively mild symptoms.” The college said Thursday the person is recovering well and should be out of isolation soon.

In a message sent Tuesday to the Colby community, college officials said they received notice from two Colby students who tested positive for COVID-19 that day.

“Both students, who departed campus on Sunday, March 15, remain at home and report that they are doing well. One of these students is currently in isolation and one has recovered and been released from isolation,” stated the notice, which was written by Karlene Burrell-McRae, the college dean; Margaret McFadden, provost and dean of faculty; and Doug Terp, vice president for administration and chief financial officer. “While the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the College from disclosing identifying information of students, please know that the test-positive students provided a list of individuals with whom they have had contact, and all those individuals have been notified.”

The Colby officials went on to write that they have “heard from members of the community who are concerned about their health and the potential that they were exposed to individuals with the virus.”

“We ask everyone to please monitor their health, and anyone with fever or respiratory symptoms should seek medical attention by first calling their primary care physician,” the officials wrote.

The college said in a statement Thursday evening that it’s difficult to know whether the five cases are related, because “the rule of thumb is that incubation period for the virus can be 14 days and Colby underwent a massive community move-out over a 3-day period.”

In addition to the athletic staff member and two students, the college said it was unable to describe the other two cases “but will continue to provide updates on the College’s COVID-19 website as appropriate.” The college said none of the five people have been hospitalized.

“None of the individuals have shared medical diagnoses regarding the severity of their symptoms, but all are isolating in their homes and not experiencing symptoms that would require hospitalization,” the college said. “One has recovered and been released from isolation.”


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