Pennsylvania College Says Students Must Stay in Dorms for a Week Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Gettysburg College announced Friday that they would start to "de-densify" the campus and send home approximately 1,300 students

Gettysburg College
Gettysburg College. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty

A small Pennsylvania college is requiring students to remain in their dorms 24 hours a day for week — only leaving to use the bathroom or pick up food — and has moved classes online after a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Gettysburg College, a private, liberal arts school, enacted the “all-student quarantine” on Sept. 1 after 25 students tested positive for COVID-19. Over the last eight days, there have been 64 positive test results across campus, President Robert Iuliano said in a statement.

On Friday, Gettysburg announced that they would start to “de-densify” the school and expect to send home around 1,300 students. They are allowing approximately 900 students to stay on campus, including freshmen, transfer and international students and those with classes or jobs that require them to remain at school.

The full quarantine will remain in place for at least a week, with exceptions for those leaving campus. Students are not allowed to leave their dorms for exercise or walks outside — they can only leave to pick up food to bring back to their rooms, to use the bathroom or to go to a COVID-19 testing appointment.

The college believes that the rise in cases “were connected to certain affinity groups or social gatherings,” Dean of Students Julie Ramsey said when announcing the all-student quarantine. They hoped that a one-week quarantine would help the college regroup and “better understand the path of the virus on campus,” to decide how to continue with the fall semester. But three days later, Iuliano announced the plans to “de-densify.”

“Sixty-four cases in a little more than a week must give us all considerable concern,” he said. “It threatens to outstrip our ability to house and quarantine students, as well as our contact-tracing capacity. We are beginning to see symptomatic students. Regrettably, we find ourselves on a path that is not sustainable, and it has caused us to come to the necessary but regrettable judgment that we needed to act before our overarching commitment to community well-being was compromised.”

Gettysburg, which began classes on Aug. 17, said they will pause them for the rest of the week, and then add a week of classes to the end of the semester.

Gettysburg is believed to be the first college to place their students in a full lockdown, but dozens of other U.S. universities are also dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks during this first month of the 2020-2021 school year. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill pivoted to remote learning just one week into the school year after their positivity rate jumped from 2.8 to 13.6 percent. At the University of Alabama’s main campus in Tuscaloosa, 2,047 students have tested positive, along with 178 staff members. And at Northeastern University in Boston, 11 first-year students were expelled after they violated the school’s coronavirus protocols by meeting up in a hotel room that is currently being used as a temporary dorm.

According to The New York Times, there have been at least 51,000 COVID-19 cases at more than 1,020 colleges in the U.S. as of Sept. 3. In total, more than 6,299,300 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and at least 188,875 people have died, the Times reported.

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