COVID-19 update: Environment returns to yellow-high

Campus COVID-19 level raised to yellow-high as positive COVID-19 cases increase on campus

Avalon Pernell

The COVID-19 Committee lowers the number of people allowed at indoor social gatherings as positive cases rise on campus.

“It only takes a few days for COVID-19 cases to spike on our campus,” the Feb. 24 email from the COVID-19 Committee said. “Effective today, indoor social gatherings will be limited to six people. The limit for outdoor social gatherings will remain at 10 people.”

Paul Youngman, the associate provost and chair of the COVID-19 committee, said the new limits on gatherings were added to limit new transmissions.

“We believe indoor gatherings have accounted for some of that transmission increase so we decreased the gathering size,” Youngman said in an email.

An increase in positive cases and pressure on the Isolation/Quarantine spaces on campus prompted the COVID environment level to return to yellow-high less than a week after it was lowered to yellow-mid. 

As of Feb. 26, the Isolation/Quarantine bed occupancy was 85.3% full. And in the last seven days the university recorded 29 positive cases of 2,699 students and employees tested –a 1.0% 7-day positivity rate.

These test results come a week before the two scheduled days off for students on March 2-3. 

“Our hope is for our students to stay as safe as possible and follow the COVID guidelines, but most importantly we hope that students can use those days to rest and recover,” Youngman said.

The two day break was created after W&L removed the week-long Washington Break from the calendar. According to an Oct. 7 email from Elizabeth Oliver, the interim provost, the decision to remove Washington Break was made to allow W&L to “finish the term successfully.”

Some students said they are not worried about COVID numbers climbing over the two day break. 

“I feel anyone who would leave for that break would also leave for a two day weekend, so I don’t think it will be any different than the cases you’d see over a weekend,” Jess Markley, ‘23, said. 

But other students were more skeptical.

“While I don’t think the cases will rise too much next week, I personally believe that there will be a spike,” Georgia McSwain, ‘24, said. 

Diana Rodriguez, ‘23, agreed.

“I think COVID-19 might rise, but with the exclusivity of parties on campus it may stay within certain groups,” she said.

And Rodriguez said she was concerned about her ability to fully re-energize with a two day break in the middle of the week.

“The fact we only have two days off isn’t the best in general with the academic rigor and fast paced curriculum we live in,” she said. “But I understand where the admin was coming from.”