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Hillsdale College | Col­legian

There are 76 active cases of COVID-19 on campus, up from 20 pos­itive cases last week, the most Hillsdale has seen since returning to school in August. As of Wednesday morning, 179 indi­viduals are in contact iso­lation, 38 of whom are exhibiting pos­sible COVID-19 symptoms as they await test results.

As of Wednesday, Chief Admin­is­trative Officer Rich Péwé said, there has been no change in the college’s COVID-19 policies. If cases con­tinue to rise, the admin­is­tration may revisit guide­lines, he said. 

This semester, 123 stu­dents have tested pos­itive for the virus and 47 of these cases have resolved, meaning that stu­dents have returned to their classes and other activ­ities. Two weeks ago, there were two active cases of COVID-19 on campus and 43 stu­dents were in contact iso­lation. 

No Hillsdale student has been hos­pi­talized as a result of the virus, the college reported. The majority who con­tract the virus report only mild symptoms.

“We appre­ciate everyone’s patience and are grateful to all our stu­dents, faculty, and staff who are working to keep the campus healthy and thriving,” said Dean of Men Aaron Petersen.

The rise in COVID-19 cases cor­re­sponds to state and national trends. On Tuesday, Michigan announced 6,473 new cases, a state record for a single day. Cases in the United States have topped more than 100,000 per day for the last week, and total U.S. cases since the start of the pan­demic now have passed 10 million.

Since the beginning of November, Hillsdale County has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Com­munity Health Agency. In the last 11 days, the county has con­firmed more than 231 new active cases in the com­munity. While some of those cases include Hillsdale College stu­dents, in the first 11 days of October, the county had only 34 new active cases.

The recent out­break, Petersen said, reflects the spike of COVID-19 cases in the com­munity.

“As we all know, this virus ebbs and flows,” Petersen said. “What we are seeing on-campus is con­sistent with what is hap­pening in our com­munity right now. We are watching it closely and responding.” 

Péwé said contact tracing has been effective in reducing com­munity spread, but that the wide­spread nature of the virus makes it chal­lenging to pin­point where the out­break orig­i­nated. 

“In the last week it has been chal­lenging to pin it down, specif­i­cally,” Péwé said. “However, the leading cause seems to be off-campus social gath­erings and the min­gling of iso­lated stu­dents.”

Although this week’s is the biggest out­break the college has seen this semester, Péwé said the college is ready to adapt as nec­essary. 

“We have developed many levels of con­tin­gencies if nec­essary,” Péwé said. “For example, activ­ities have been adjusted or post­poned throughout the semester depending on the level of cases.”

One of those activ­ities was this week’s Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives seminar. The lecture series, which is open to campus, the public, and college guests, operated under limited capacity and gave stu­dents the option to attend lec­tures vir­tually. 

Matt Bell, director of pro­grams for external affairs, said although the CCA operated under lim­i­ta­tions, the lim­i­ta­tions had less to do with recent out­breaks than new orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Ser­vices.

“Due to recent man­dates issued by the governor’s department of HHS, the number of outside guests allowed to attend the CCA was severely restricted, with most watching lec­tures online,” Bell said. “Stu­dents enrolled in the CCA for credit were able to view lec­tures in person.”

Although limited capacity was due to MDHHS guide­lines, Bell said accom­mo­da­tions were made for stu­dents who were in quar­antine and unable to attend the CCA in person.

“A number of enrolled stu­dents were quar­an­tined and were given atten­dance waivers for the lec­tures they missed,” Bell said. “All of the lec­tures will be available online at cca.hillsdale.edu for stu­dents and friends of the college to view.”

Along with adjust­ments to the CCA, the college has created mul­tiple housing options for stu­dents in contact iso­lation. Upon testing pos­itive for the virus, or when contact traced, stu­dents may return home or stay on campus, where they are pro­vided with housing and meals. Stu­dents may only return home if they have a vehicle on campus and if they live close enough to drive. 

The college uses many on and off-campus loca­tions to house stu­dents. The Town­houses, Park Place Apart­ments, Michindoh Con­ference Center, and the Dow Hotel and Con­ference Center are just a few loca­tions iso­lated stu­dents can occupy. Stu­dents also have the option to stay in their off-campus housing, pro­vided none of their house­mates will be exposed to the virus. 

Despite the high volume of stu­dents in iso­lation, Péwé said the college has not reached capacity for iso­lation loca­tions, but that “senior staff has been con­sid­ering strategies to safely isolate more stu­dents effec­tively,” in case another out­break ensues. 

“We are grateful for the support and part­nership of The Michindoh Con­ference Center who has been a big ally to the college, helping us to house and feed our stu­dents who are in iso­lation,” Petersen said.    

Aaron Tracey, director of hos­pi­tality oper­a­tions for the Dow Hotel and Rockwell Lake Lodge, said that the hotel has been accom­mo­dating the needs of stu­dents in iso­lation.

“The Dow Hotel has always been a backup facility to isolate stu­dents. Camp Michindoh has been the des­ig­nated facility, however the hotel works well as we have 36 indi­vidual rooms with their own air control,” Tracey said in an email. “This has been a recent need, so we are doing all we can. The stu­dents are com­fortable in a modern hotel room, and the college is easily able to take care of their needs here.”

Addi­tionally, Tracey said, the hotel rarely expe­ri­ences vacancies as is, so student occu­pation of the hotel hasn’t greatly inter­fered with out-of-town guest bookings.

“There are never enough rooms in the hotel to accom­modate all of Hillsdale’s guests. That’s not a new issue; we typ­i­cally have several rooms on the waitlist,” Tracey said. “That said, we are entering our slow season at the hotel, so we haven’t seen too much of an impact with turning away guests. Our first pri­ority has always been to serve the college’s needs first. That looks a little dif­ferent this week.”

Director of Health and Wellness Brock Lutz said that the admin­is­tration will stick to its original plan: college as normal. 

“The college con­tinues to follow its plan which includes in-person classes after Thanks­giving,” Lutz said.