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COVID-19 Positive Cases Update by Jim Terhune, Vice President for Student Affairs

Dear Students, Families, Faculty, and Staff Members, 

I am writing to update you on important recent developments regarding the presence of COVID-19 within the residential student community. While this information pertains primarily to students living on campus, I am writing to our broader community in the interest of transparency and to underscore the importance of our continued vigilance against the spread of COVID-19.   

Recently, three residential students tested positive for COVID-19. All three students are closely connected to one another, and we have moved them to isolation housing. We have also completed contact tracing consistent with our protocols and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result of those efforts, nine other students who have been identified as close contacts are in quarantine housing and being closely monitored. Six of those individuals have tested negative for COVID-19 at this point, and we are awaiting test results on the other three. All nine of these students will remain in quarantine housing for 14 days from the date of possible exposure to the virus.

A number of the students involved are members of athletic teams. While contact tracing gives us no reason to believe other members of those teams are at a heightened risk for exposure to the virus, out of an abundance of caution, all members of the teams in question have been tested as well, and we expect to have those results by the end of the week.

Based on these three new positive COVID-19 cases on campus, we will resume required weekly testing of all residential students beginning next week. Worth Health Center staff members will share details of the testing schedule no later than tomorrow afternoon. 

Although this is disappointing and certainly unwelcome news, the appearance of new COVID-19 cases on campus is not surprising given the increase in cases both nationally and in Pennsylvania. These on-campus cases are, however, a sobering reminder that, despite our generally encouraging results so far this semester, Swarthmore is not immune to this virus.

We are all tired of having our lives disrupted by COVID-19. We miss the ability to hug our friends, to attend parties, to go shopping, or to hike in the woods without worrying about how close we are to passersby. It is natural after so many months to start to let our guard down. But that’s exactly what can lead to a sudden uptick in cases. Therefore, based on what we have seen in recent days, I want to offer specific guidance, in addition to what is outlined in the Garnet Pledge:

  • Residential students are not permitted to visit other students in quarantine or isolation spaces. This introduces significant risk to the broader community of residential students and others who work on campus.
  • Students living on campus must provide accurate information regarding symptom tracking every day. In at least one of these new cases, a student who failed to disclose symptoms later tested positive. Our commitment to one another includes being forthright and timely in symptom tracking.
  • Students living on campus can have no more than one other student in their residence hall room at a time, and they should always wear a mask unless they are alone in their own room.

I appreciate that these restrictions can be hard to abide by and represent some sacrifice. I am also grateful that most of you are doing everything you can to comply with the policies and procedures we’ve put in place, and that you’re doing your part to help keep our community healthy and safe. We cannot grow complacent. The rest of the semester, and our ability to follow through with the plans for the spring semester that President Smith outlined yesterday, depends on our collective and continued vigilance.

Jim Terhune
Vice President for Student Affairs