Wells College keeps campus open with no confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far

More than nine weeks into the fall semester, Wells College has succeeded in doing what few other colleges could: Keep its campus 100 percent free of the coronavirus.

Since the fall semester began, no active cases of COVID-19 have been detected during a rigorous, ongoing program of surveillance testing.

College leadership attributes this to a combination of factors, including arrival testing for returning students in late August, frequent surveillance testing of everyone on campus, widespread adherence to social distancing and hygiene protocols, and the College’s location in rural Cayuga County where case counts have been relatively low compared to other regions of New York State.

Wells College’s prevention efforts will be further bolstered by a $15,000 grant it recently received from the Cayuga County COVID-19 Fund, an affiliate fund of the Central New York Community Foundation.

“We are proud of our success in keeping the virus away from our campus. It is a testament to the thorough planning of our COVID-19 Response Team over the summer, as well as the extraordinary commitment of everyone in our community to maintain a safe learning and residential environment here at Wells,” said President Jonathan Gibralter. “We are also grateful for our ongoing partnership with the Cayuga County Health Department and the generosity of the Central New York Community Foundation,” he added.

Wells College’s success comes at a time when many other colleges in the area have been forced to return to remote-only instruction, due to a New York State mandate that colleges must go remote if their COVID-19 case counts rise above 100 individuals or 5% of the student body, whichever is smaller; and some other colleges have opted to go remote for the entire semester.

All students were tested for COVID-19 in late August upon their initial arrival on campus. Then, last month, the College began its ongoing program of surveillance testing, mandating that every student and employee be tested once during each two-week cycle. Through this regular testing, all members of the campus community have access to on-campus testing at no cost to them. Over 1,800 tests have been administered during the current fall semester, with zero positive results to date.

The latest data may be found at the College’s COVID-19 dashboard, located at wells.edu/covid-19-dashboard. The dashboard will be updated about once a week with the latest information.

To help the College navigate the many new protocols and requirements presented by the coronavirus pandemic, Wells College created a new position of COVID-19/Title IX coordinator, and convened a new, smaller task force to continue the collaboration needed to addressing the many logistical and health-related issues raised by the pandemic

Once Wells students go home for the Thanksgiving break, they will remain off campus as they finish up the fall semester and their final exams. The spring 2021 semester will begin a week later than initially planned, so that students who need to quarantine can finish that two-week process before classes begin Feb. 1. There will be no spring break this year, and Commencement is still scheduled for Saturday, May 22.

“In mid-August, I wrote our community and told them that we have an incredible opportunity in front of us to demonstrate that, at a small, rural private college within a caring community, we can successfully navigate the complexity of a global pandemic and keep our community safe from harm. And I feel that we have been able to achieve that ambitious goal,” said President Gibralter.


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