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Haverford Records First COVID-19 Cases Among Students

Two students on Haverford College’s campus have tested positive for COVID-19, the first cases among students so far this semester. The results were first made public through the college’s COVID Dashboard on September 25, as part of a batch of 385 tests from the college’s first round of mass testing of students.

According to an email sent by Interim Dean of the College Joyce Bylander, the students who tested positive have moved to isolation housing and are in good condition. Both are asymptomatic, which is common among COVID patients.

Dean Bylander reported that five additional students have been identified as close contacts—defined as coming within six feet for more than ten minutes—and are currently quarantined while awaiting their COVID tests.

Although two cases may seem like a low number given the nearly 1,000 students living on campus, the majority of results from this week’s mass testing are yet to arrive. Since the COVID Dashboard is typically updated on Tuesdays and Fridays, the college community will have to wait through the weekend to know how the campus is faring overall.

Update: On September 27, Vice President and Chief of Staff Jesse Lytle emailed the Clerk with the latest COVID test results. Out of 1,047 tests administered during the past week, 887 have come back, while 160 are still pending. No additional students have tested positive beyond the two reported on Friday. The college expects full results from the first round of mass testing to be posted on the COVID Dashboard on Tuesday, September 29.

The COVID cases among Haverford students come less than two weeks after the college briefly moved to Level 2 of the Bi-Co Mitigation Plan during the week of September 13. Haverford’s administration had elected to tighten the rules in response to student gatherings on September 11 and 12 that violated safety guidelines.

At the time, some students questioned why the college did not elect to move up the start of mass testing from September 21, to catch any COVID-19 cases that were spread as a result of the unauthorized parties. Under the current plan, all students living on campus or commuting for in-person classes will be tested every two weeks.

Haverford now has the same number of students who have tested positive for COVID as Bryn Mawr. Unlike Haverford, however, Bryn Mawr students are only being tested monthly, in three cohorts.

The two cases out of 385 tests—a 0.5% positivity rate—mean that the campus is still well short of the 3% threshold that would trigger a return to Level 2.

In her email, Dean Bylander confirmed that Haverford would be remaining at Level 1 for the moment: “We do not feel that these cases represent a threat to the community and have no plans for changing mitigation levels at this time,” she wrote.

With news of the two positive cases spreading fast across campus, stress levels are running high. “I’m anxious,” said Simon Babb ’22. “They should be doing testing at least once a week.”

Babb was also concerned that testing and contact tracing might not have captured all the students who could have been exposed to COVID. To date, the turnaround time for college-administered COVID tests has been two to four days, leaving a large window of time for infected students to spread the virus before being identified.

Yet some students actually expressed a sense of relief at the first batch of mass testing results. “Well, with that ratio, it means that we should have like six positives in the whole school,” commented Louisa Stoll ’21.

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