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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

Reported cases low in week after mask mandate ends

Testing is now available at the back porch of Parton Health Services instead of the Athletic Center.
Testing is now available at the back porch of Parton Health Services instead of the Athletic Center.

Reported Covid-19 cases at Middlebury remained low in the week since students returned from spring break, after the college shifted to an optional mask mandate on March 18 and stopped requiring weekly Covid-19 testing on March 13. According to the college’s Covid-19 reporting dashboard, there are two active cases of Covid-19 on campus, one student and one faculty member, as of March 31. 

Mark Peluso, director of health services, announced the shift to a mask-optional policy in an email to the college on March 9. Currently, masks are optional for all students except those in isolation and recovery. Masks are currently still required in classrooms and in some academic buildings at the discretion of individual departments. Peluso stated that this shift, along with increased antigen testing, is part of Middlebury’s move “to a more endemic state of living with the virus.”  

Along with the shift to a mask-optional policy, the college is no longer requiring students to get tested once every week, instead offering rapid tests that students can use if they are concerned they might have Covid-19. Since March 28, the first Monday after spring break, only 20 total completed PCR tests have been reported.

In an email to the college on April 6, College Physician Mark Peluso and Vice President for Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka announced that starting April 11, Covid-19 PCR testing will move from Virtue Field House to the testing window of Parton Health Center, located on the patio facing the Service Building. They cited the lower volumes of PCR testing due to the increased availability of rapid tests as the reason for the move. 

This low case count is a shift from the outbreak that the college faced in the weeks prior to leaving for spring break. At its height, the college reported up to 222 active cases. The prior outbreak has affected how students are currently viewing the lower prevalence of Covid-19, especially as many students have already had Covid-19. 

Ciara Burke ’22 had Covid-19 earlier this semester. Despite the removal of the mask mandate, Burke noted that Covid-19 has not appeared especially prominent on campus this past week and a half since coming back from break.

“It seems right now that after the first few outbreaks that Covid on campus has settled down a lot. Most of my friends have had it by now,” Burke said. “But the mask mandate in some places like classes and parts of academic buildings still makes sense for the health of faculty and staff.” 

According to the Covid-19 Reporting Dashboard, a total of 445 positive cases have been reported during the spring 2022 semester as of April 4.