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How students are dealing with Middlebury College’s biggest COVID outbreak

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 5:46 PM EST
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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Middlebury College is still in the throes of its biggest COVID outbreak to date, with 135 active cases. Compare that to 195 new cases announced in the entire state of Vermont on Wednesday.

When you look at positivity rates, the school’s is more than twice that of the state.

Our Melissa Cooney went to Middlebury to talk with students and the college about life on campus during this uptick in cases.

Navigating pandemic guidelines is second nature for college students.

“Our daily routines went on, we got tested, went to class, people quarantined,” said Brendan Maykeo, a Middlebury student.

But, like everywhere else, people are still getting sick.

“I honestly didn’t expect it to get this bad on campus,” student Sade Awodesu said.

Some 99% of the student body is vaccinated. The staff is 98% vaccinated.

The college PCR tests students weekly and antigen tests have been distributed during this surge, where the school has seen its highest case count since the start of the pandemic.

It’s important to note most students report very mild symptoms or none at all.

“What we’re really trying to focus on also is the severity of symptoms. That is really a more accurate and more relevant data point,” said Smita Ruzicka, the vice president of student affairs at Middlebury College.

The college says it is approaching a place where they can steer pandemic management into an endemic phase thanks to high vaccination rates and thorough protocols.

“It’s slowly shifting the mindset from sort of, again, a top-down restrictive, prescriptive set of policies to really a shift of thinking about personal responsibility, community responsibility and a shared sort of working toward, you know, sort of living with COVID. But we talk about it doesn’t mean that we let our guards down,” Ruzicka said.

The indoor mask mandate is still in place on campus but it’s not clear for how long.

“I’m just hoping that after this spike, the school will drop the mask mandate. I don’t think it’s needed any more,” said Brendan Maykeo, a Middlebury student.

“It’s difficult because everywhere else is lifting restrictions, but I also think we need to be sensitive and take care of our most vulnerable,” student Lauren Garcia Still said.

Ruzicka says the school takes a look at masking policies every day.

“Think we’re going to continue to assess that and continue to think about what are the benefits of continuing with an indoor mass policy. What are really, quite frankly, also the challenges of continuing that when the state is moving away,” Ruzicka said.

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