Dear Colby Community,
A key element of the College’s COVID-19 safety planning is our testing program, which is designed to identify infections early so that isolation, contact tracing, and quarantining can occur in a timely way, often before individuals experience symptoms or become contagious. For everyone’s safety, we began testing Colby employees prior to students’ arrival, and students were tested before arrival and again as they entered campus. Students are required to quarantine in their student residence until they receive negative results from the on-campus testing program.
We have conducted more than 6,400 COVID-19 tests (4,700 on campus; 1,700 before arrival) over the past month. Of these tests, we have had five positive cases to date (a rate of .08 percent):
- Two employees, both of whom were re-tested and received two consecutive negative results. Neither was or had recently been ill, nor had either individual traveled outside of Maine in recent weeks. One had been working remotely from March, and the other was tested early in our process and has since left the college for a position elsewhere.
- Three students are currently in isolation and not experiencing symptoms. Colby is providing them with extensive support.
These individuals did not become infected at Colby. These cases are unrelated and contained, and there is no evidence of community transmission.
Our testing program is functioning as we intended: first, it is helping us to identify anyone who might be infected and therefore at risk and/or potentially putting others at risk; second, it is setting the baseline for future testing. This is important because the test Colby is using is a highly sensitive PCR test that can detect evidence of the virus in a person’s system long after the individual is contagious. We believe we have seen this already with some of our positive cases—individuals had evidence of the virus in their bodies, but it is highly probable that they contracted it some time ago and have passed the period of contagion. Identifying those cases now allows us to launch the academic year with a full understanding of the health of our community.
In each of the positive cases detected in the past several days, contact tracers identified and contacted individuals who needed to quarantine based on CDC guidelines. The test-positive individuals were immediately isolated and re-tested as quickly as possible. In some cases, additional tests returned negative results. Colby’s medical director is reviewing the circumstances of each case and will determine when students can be released from isolation. Faculty and staff members are asked to consult with their primary care physicians.
We are committed to full transparency with the results of our testing program with the understanding that we are obliged to protect individual heath data. As we have positive cases, we will report them on a dashboard, available here, which will be updated daily with tests conducted at Colby (this does not include pre-arrival tests). We will also include the number of negative tests, inconclusive tests, and positive cases, including those in isolation, and provides up-to-date information about Colby’s health code.
The state health code may change over the course of the semester based on a combination of factors including infection rates at Colby and in Maine, the presence of community transmission, and compliance with our comprehensive safety program.
We knew that when we began testing we would identify positive cases, and Colby has developed an effective process for using testing to protect our community and care for test-positive individuals. While in many ways this news is encouraging given the number of tests we have conducted, we need to recognize that the virus is around us. We need to adhere to all the protocols in a strict and ongoing way to ensure that there is no community transmission.
With everyone’s full cooperation and commitment to our program, we can all look forward to a fulfilling, enjoyable—and healthy—semester ahead.
Dean of the College
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer