UVM says COVID spike linked to students not following protocols

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 4:36 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:06 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Students slacking off on safety protocols seem to be the main spreader of COVID-19 on the University of Vermont campus, according to school officials.

UVM says 78 students, both on and off-campus, have tested positive this month and 46 of those cases came in just the last week. Gary Derr, UVM’s vice president, says this is the largest jump they’ve seen since the pandemic began. School leaders say the good news is that 60% of the new positive on-campus cases came from students who were already in quarantine and 30% of the new positive off-campus cases came from students already in quarantine.

In a letter to students, Derr says most of the recent cases appear to be the result of lapses in following safety guidelines. “Early on, we had a couple of gatherings that occurred where people didn’t wear masks. A day or two later, somebody tests positive and we have to quarantine a large group and then in that group, we’ve had a number test positive,” he said.

Some students we spoke to say they’ve noticed some classmates slacking on physical distancing and attending social gatherings. “I’m seeing more things happening around campus and people are more willing to come together as a group,” said Thomas Howden.

“A lot of stuff’s going through social media where people are like, ‘Come to my party. Come to my dorm. Let’s hang out. Let’s break the rules.’ I feel like that’s happening right now a lot more,” said Alexa Adjudanpur.

Some students are worried if this continues, the entire campus will return to being fully remote. “I’m from New Jersey so it’s going to be really stressful trying to figure out a way back home if we do get sent home,” said Claudia Ricatto.

But Derr says it would take a much larger increase for the university to take those measures. He says as long as they continue testing thousands in the community every week, they’ll have a strong read of where the positives are coming from. “And we can quickly determine if we’ve got a situation that’s emerging in a particular part of campus. So rather than taking a wholesale action to the university, ‘we’re going to do this for the entire university,’ we might be able to say, ‘For this area, we’re going to do testing twice a week for every student in this hall until we can get through there,’” Derr said.

Additionally, the school is adding more testing. Alongside the weekly PCR tests, rapid antigen testing is being done in specific situations, like if a student is symptomatic.

We’re told their quarantine and isolation housing have not reached capacity.

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