COA opens winter term with several COVID cases

BAR HARBOR — College of the Atlantic’s winter trimester began last week with community-wide COVID-19 testing and remote classes. A total of seven active cases were reported out of a testing pool of 415 students, staff and faculty, representing just over 1 percent of the total number tested.  

Students testing positive for COVID-19 were moved into vacant rooms off campus over the course of the day last Thursday. Staff made sure the students were well supplied, comfortable and able to engage remotely with their coursework. No serious symptoms were reported. 

A number of students identified as close contacts were instructed to minimize interactions with others for a minimum of five days, wear tight-fitting masks and check for symptoms for 10 days. The school will use both PCR and rapid antigen tests to monitor the condition of close contacts.  

“Our biggest priority at College of the Atlantic is to cultivate a productive, supportive learning environment for our students this winter,” said COA President Darron Collins. “Our isolation and quarantine protocols, while designed to minimize risk, can cause significant disruption for those affected, so it’s important that we all work collaboratively, with empathy, to make sure every member of our community has a chance for success during these trying times.” 

As of Jan. 7, the college had 11 students in isolation due to positive COVID-19 tests. That accounts for the students identified in baseline PCR testing and those who tested elsewhere. Students are staying in seasonal facilities owned by Ocean Properties LTD.  

All persons expecting to be on campus this winter (approximately 430) were required to take part in baseline testing, but travel delays and other issues kept some from campus during week one. 

Students with a positive test will be able to take rapid antigen tests on day six of their isolation, with the hopes that they can attend in-person classes. They will, however, be required to sleep and stay in isolation for a full 10 days, according to Centers for Disease Control recommendations. 

Masks are required in any shared indoor spaces on COA campus. COVID-19 vaccinations were required for all students, staff and faculty as of fall term, and the school has recently announced a Jan. 28 deadline for vaccine boosters for anyone eligible. Dining services had been takeout-only for week one of the term. 

COA’s COVID response team, which includes Collins, faculty deans, student life staff and others, has been meeting regularly since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to craft the college’s response. They work closely with area partners and especially Dr. J.R. Krevens of Mount Desert Island Hospital. Previous to this term, the school had only seen a few active COVID-19 cases. This is the first use of isolation facilities at COA since the pandemic began. 

“We remain committed to following the science as we continue to find ways to thrive nearly two years into the pandemic,” Collins said. “We’re cognizant of our small town and have worked closely with our medical and scientific partners to make sure that we are being good community members and doing everything we can to protect both our students and those in the larger Mount Desert Island community.” 

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