A group of Bowdoin College students walk downtown over the weekend. The college recently moved to code “yellow,” which allows students to leave campus. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — After a handful of cases at the outset of the semester, there are no known cases of coronavirus at Bowdoin College. 

The college reported three cases of COVID-19 within the first two weeks of school, with the first student receiving a positive test before even arriving on campus. Now, with 5,359 student tests and 4,786 faculty tests completed as of Thursday, Bowdoin is reporting that there have been no new cases for more than a week. All three students who tested positive for the virus have since recovered.

None of the cases were connected. There are no students in isolation — three remain in quarantine after coming into contact with infected students, but none have tested positive for the virus. 

“This is excellent news, and I am tremendously grateful to everyone in our community for their diligence in observing our protocols for health and safety,” said Clayton Rose, Bowdoin’s president, wrote in a letter to the campus community. “We have a long way to go, but so far, so good.”  

“We have seen time and time again that all it takes is one infected person to go undetected and a large group can be infected,” he added. “So, until an effective vaccine is developed and distributed widely, we will have to continue to observe the protocols that help keep the virus at bay.”

There will continue to be fewer students on campus (about 700 students this semester), they will continue twice-weekly testing and isolation of those who test positive before the virus can spread, and will continue to enforce proper hygiene, the use of face coverings, physical distancing and small gatherings.

To keep the campus density low and minimize the distractions for classes conducted outside, members of the public are still barred from campus. 

On Sunday, the school returned to code “yellow,” the least restrictive designation which allows students to leave campus for essential needs, gather in residence hall common spaces, visit other residence halls and access targeted academic buildings and libraries. 

The athletic fields, which officials announced will close at sundown following an investigation into a gathering that allegedly “compromised the college’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols,” will continue to close at night.  

For local business owners, many of whom were worried about the future when Bowdoin closed its doors and moved to online learning in March, the students’ return to campus has brought a more than welcome boost. 

Mitch Newlin, employee-owner of Gelato Fiasco on Maine Street, said that despite “the worst summer ever,” the company is still hanging on. 

Sales have consistently been hovering around 60% of normal, but in the last week or so, that has bumped up to 75% — “still not good, but somewhat closer to normal,” he said.

Newlin attributes a portion of that increase to Bowdoin College students.

“It’s a balancing act and we’re still not on solid ground, but every day we’re feeling a little more optimistic,” he said. 

Becky Shepherd, owner of Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe, said her business, which is doing curbside only, also noticed a bump, especially in vegan and gluten-free items. 

It was an unexpected but needed boost that “coincided seamlessly with losing what summer business we did have,” she said. “It definitely filled that gap, which was really important to us” as they were “looking forward to a terrible fall, business-wise.” 

Shepherd said she is impressed with how the college and students have managed the start of the fall semester. 

“My personal point of view is that they’ve all been incredibly respectful to our business and all over town,” she said.

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