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Breaking: Students Move Into Isolation Amid Unprecedented Spike in Cases

In the past week, student COVID cases have increased more than fivefold, going from 13 cases to over 70. This is the highest number of cases the college has seen since the pandemic began, as indicated by the graph below. This case count is more than double the total number of cases the college had in the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year, according to The Clerk’s calculations.

The Clerk spoke with a student currently isolating at 8 Railroad Ave to learn more. They opted to stay anonymous for personal reasons and will be referred to by the pseudonym Rufus. Rufus tested positive Tuesday, February 22, via an at-home rapid test, and was moved to isolation at 8 Railroad Ave the following day and will remain there until Monday, February 28, after a five-day isolation period.

Rufus is currently being housed in the basement of 8 Railroad Ave, a building that contains 20 isolation spaces, according to a previous Clerk article. They describe the basement: “When I saw that room it was pretty depressing, I was just thinking wow. All there was were four beds with curtains in between them. There were no chairs, no desks, and there were maybe two outlets in the whole room.” They and the three others in the basement were allowed to go outside and get patio chairs to sit beside their bed, but they do not have desks. 

Rufus’ Isolation space in the basement of 8 Railroad Ave

Rufus notes that food is delivered in paper bags twice a day. As to bathrooms, Rufus comments that “The house has three floors and there’s one bathroom in the basement, where [I am] and there’s two bathrooms on the second floor. I think all of them are gender neutral.” Rufus is allowed to interact with the other students housed in the building, stating that “We’re allowed to walk around and hang out.”

Having been isolated for a few days, Rufus has gotten used to the basement and is looking forward to leaving isolation. Rufus expresses that they and other people isolating with them have “Just been counting by the days until we can go back.”

Administrators have sent a few emails in response to the COVID spike. On Wednesday, February 23, Dean McKnight sent an email notifying students of increased testing availability and encouraging students to mask in residence halls. Two days later, Vice President Jesse Lytle sent an email sharing the statistics from the past two days of testing, updates to COVID policy, and testing plans for the next few weeks. 

From these test results, Lytle concluded in the email that “A large majority of cases are appearing in clusters of students who are living and/or socializing together, unmasked” and that “There is no evidence of spread in classrooms or work spaces.” Thus, Lytle announced that the college is reverting to the COVID mitigation policy from two weeks ago until the week after spring break. Lytle and the Haverford administration still “strongly encourage” students to get tested. The email listed testing availability, but the college does not require testing until the week students return from spring break.

“I think an outbreak like this is bound to happen … As much as I don’t like the stricter COVID policies, I think that they work, I think that’s in the best interest for the school right now,” Rufus comments.

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