Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg is currently seeing the highest number of “active” COVID-19 cases on campus since the start of the semester in August.
There are currently 26 active cases — 24 students and two employees, Donna Klinger, director of public relations and communications for the Mount, said Thursday.
The Mount is using the term “active cases” to account for both individuals who have tested positive for the virus and those who have been in close contact with those who have tested positive or may be suspected of having the virus despite testing negative.
Of the 26 active cases, 14 are confirmed positive. All student active cases are quarantined in a space on-campus or nearby out of an abundance of caution, Klinger said. Students continue to take classes online while in isolation and have their meals delivered.
Every student who arrived on campus at the start of the semester was tested and the school year began with 12 active cases.
Despite having a number of active cases since classes began, campus life has proceeded as normal. Classes are still operating on a hybrid model and athletics are continuing.
As part of its COVID-19 plan, the Mount has laid out three levels to monitor whether more restrictions need to be enacted based on the number of active cases. The campus currently sits in Level 1, which means there is a low level of cases that can be contained.
Level 2 would require additional restrictions on campus life such as pausing athletic practices and moving all classes online. Klinger would not say for sure if Level 3 would mean a campus shutdown, but said it’s possible.
“It’s certainly one of the options on the table, but you know there are recommendations out there to not send people home and possibly infect their communities,” she said.
Those who are deemed as an active case are allowed to go home if they wish, but Klinger said there is more confidence that these individuals would quarantine safely at home and not infect others.
“They are going home to an environment where they know that they can isolate from everyone and it’s safe, but if we were to send everyone home, we don’t know how many students would be asymptomatic and possibly be spreading the virus,” Klinger said.
The campus community is alerted at least once a week of where the active case count stands and testing also occurs weekly.
About 2,270 COVID-19 tests have been performed on campus as of Sept. 8 and the current positivity rate is at 1 percent.
The university is also using a wastewater monitor program that can detect traces of the virus in the waste from residence halls.
If a building shows high levels of the virus, the entire residence hall is swab tested and those who test positive, if any, are placed in isolation away from the residence hall. As a precaution, the entire residence hall may be required to shelter in place. These students must stay in their dorm rooms and are only allowed to go outside to retrieve meals from the dining hall.