Sept. 22: Important COVID-19 Update
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
Earlier this morning, the College announced that it would be quarantining all residential students who live in Monican Hall as a result of Merrimack’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program. This decision was made as a result of five positive cases being identified from Monican as of 8 a.m. this morning. Through continued surveillance testing the College has identified an additional 11 residents of Monican Hall who have tested positive as of 5 p.m. These 16 positive cases identified today follow a single positive case in Monican identified last week, totaling 17 cases in the last seven days.
The College considers the number of positive cases in Monican Hall concerning, and is moving aggressively through its protocols of contact tracing, isolation and quarantining to minimize the effect on the campus and community. We remind everyone we have built a very impressive surveillance testing system, and it is detecting exactly what it is designed to detect. Our goal is to minimize campus-wide outbreaks by identifying positive cases and quarantining/isolating community members to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and thus preventing an outbreak in one area from spreading across the campus. We prepared for this, and we will do everything possible to stop the spread and minimize any impact. We do expect more positives as a result of our aggressive testing of Monican students and will follow our protocols if that happens.
As of 7 p.m. today, all 266 Monican Hall residents are in isolation or quarantine. Over 250 of which are doing so off of the campus, as is College COVID-19 policy. The remaining Monican Hall residents who are quarantining or isolating on campus are doing so in campus-designated quarantine spaces. Monican is empty and it will be systematically and professionally cleaned and disinfected before anyone moves back in.
We want to thank all the Monican students and their parents for their patience and diligence in moving off of the campus this morning by implementing their predetermined departure plans so quickly and acting to protect others. We are very sorry this is happening to our Monican Hall students, but we have these policies and procedures in place in order to respond to situations such as this as well as to do our best to protect others.
As the College’s COVID-19 dashboard notes (updated this evening) this past week (Tuesday, Sept. 15 through Monday, Sept. 21) the College tested 4,540 students, faculty and staff and had 20 positive cases, for a negative testing rate of 99.56%. In addition to the 17 cases from Monican, there were three additional positives over the past week, none were residential students (two commuters and one staff member).
Over the past ten days, the only residential students who have tested positive live in Monican Hall. No students in the other residence halls have tested positive since Sept. 11, 2020, and that includes those tested from yesterday, Monday, Sept. 21.
In an effort to quickly understand the impact of these positive cases in Monican Hall, and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the following actions have been taken or will be taken over the next 24 hours to limit any spread and identify any potential concerns:
- The College conducted surveillance testing on more than 150 Monican residents as they entered quarantine and are awaiting these results.
- All residential students who live outside of Monican Hall and were scheduled to be tested on Thursday and Friday will need to be tested by 5 pm tomorrow evening, Wednesday, Sept. 23 at the campus testing center. Residential students should expect a message by 9 p.m. this evening about the time they should arrive for their additional testing tomorrow. This testing is required.
- All residential students who live in Monican Hall should plan to remain off of the campus and in quarantine for 14 days, or until the College contacts them with further information on additional testing and a return date. They should continue their courses remotely, and work with their professors on ways to continue their studies while off campus, so their return to in-person class is seamless after their quarantine. Faculty should assist these students with any remote learning needs they have, as per our institutional hybrid learning model.
- Student Affairs staff will check on all students in quarantine on a regular basis.
As a reminder, students, faculty and staff who have been identified as a close contact of a positive case for COVID-19 will be contacted by our contact tracing team. If you are not contacted by the contact tracing team you are not deemed to have been in close contact. Members of our community should not be alarmed if they are contacted by the team. These highly trained representatives are helping to contact trace and determine any potential spread of the virus. We ask that you answer their calls promptly and answer all questions truthfully. Students will not be penalized for being truthful in their answers. We are trying to identify the sources and mitigate the impacts of potential spread, and your truthfulness will help solve the problem quickly so everyone can return to campus and continue their studies.
Finally, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to closely monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and, if symptoms develop, should contact their health care providers immediately. No one should come to campus if they exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19.
We all understand that moments like this can be stressful for some of us. We remind our community to be patient and comforting to one another as well as vigilant in keeping each other safe. This is a moment when we must join together, support one another, and fully comply with our community health and safety protocols. COVID-19 is challenging all of us in ways that we did not expect, but through dedication and focus on safety, caring and compassion for each other we will all come through this together.
The College is open and classes remain on schedule. Merrimack will continue to monitor the situation daily through surveillance testing and self-diagnostic symptom checking. We will be vigilant, aggressive and diligent in our efforts to mitigate the effects of this situation. We will also be transparent and honest about where we stand and will update the College with further emails this week.
If you have any questions please contact the Task Force or call 978-837-5599.
Be safe, be well and God Bless.
Christopher E. Hopey. Ph.D.
Jeffrey Doggett, Ed.D
Executive Vice President
Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Vice President and Dean of Students