Published: January 29, 2021
To the Thomas College Community,
Last evening, Thomas College was informed by the Maine CDC that our community has officially been declared as having an “outbreak” of COVID-19, which will be included in Dr. Shah’s briefing this coming Tuesday. An official “outbreak” is defined by the CDC as 3 or more positive cases occurring within a 14-day period. As our testing dashboard shows, as of this afternoon there are 8 active positive cases found by our on-campus surveillance testing, and every individual is in isolation and poses no risk to the community.
Our publicly available testing data, updated each business day, reaffirms our commitment to open and honest communication while lawfully protecting the privacy of impacted individuals.
While Thomas was one of the only colleges in Maine to avoid having an outbreak during the fall semester, there are three primary reasons that we both anticipated and planned for increased positivity on campus as we returned for our spring semester:
- Returning to campus after spending 3 weeks with families and friends in less-restrictive social settings
- Increased positivity rates in the general population of Maine, New England, and beyond
- COVID fatigue – when community members are just plain tired of following the protocols and start to take more risks
Between our return to campus in August 2020 and our return in January, Maine’s positivity rate increased dramatically. In preparation for re-establishing the Thomas Bubble, the College enhanced and expanded safety protocols for the spring semester, including staggering re-integration, additional de-densification, and increased testing frequency.
While there are some factors we cannot control, like what is happening outside of our community, we can control our own behaviors. Since our return, COVID fatigue has led to behaviors on campus that will further increase our positive case numbers over the coming week.
These behaviors included not wearing masks, both on- and off-campus and while riding in vehicles, sharing food and beverages, and gathering in numbers that exceeded posted occupancy limits. The College has moved quickly to limit the scope of this increase with additional testing, contact tracing, and implementing isolation and quarantine protocols for affected or presumed affected individuals.
Our investigation into the gatherings that occurred last weekend have thus far resulted in sanctions ranging from official warnings to removal from campus housing.
Those who knowingly violate our safety protocols have and will face severe consequences.
Despite the increased level of cases detected on campus, Thomas College remains a safe place to live, learn, and work. Therefore:
- Our campus and offices remain open to members of our community
- Classes will remain in-person and on-campus (our classrooms are considered low risk transmission areas by the Maine CDC when precautionary procedures are correctly followed)
- Residences and dining facilities remain open
However, out of an abundance of caution, we will be tightening our mitigation protocols as follows:
- A moratorium on athletic and intramural activities is effective immediately. We will monitor conditions and will restart these activities when it is safe to do so
- Community testing will continue at 2x per week (please continue following the schedule you received upon return to campus in January)
I want to thank everyone who takes our community responsibilities seriously. You exemplify what makes Thomas College different and unique: Our small and fiercely caring community.
I implore each of you to please adhere to our mitigation protocols–on-campus and off. Even minor deviations for short periods of time can put you at risk, harm the entire Thomas community, and potentially expose your friends, co-workers, and your families to a virus that has already taken nearly 600 of our fellow Mainers. When all of us show the same diligence and commitment to our Terrier Pledge, our community bubble can and will remain healthy and strong.
We will continue to share updates as the situation warrants.
With deep respect,
Laurie G. Lachance, President
Laurie G. Lachance
180 W River Rd, Waterville, ME 04901
For the most recent updates on Thomas College’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our COVID-19 web page. Our COVID-19 Dashboard is updated regularly with the latest testing data. If you have questions related to COVID-19, please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.