Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor
This past week, Berry saw the largest spike spike in COVID-19 positive cases since the semester began, resulting in a large group of students being placed into quarantine. According to the Berry COVID-19 case tracker on the Healthy Together webpage, 46 students tested positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 17, and so far, 40 students have been placed in quarantine. Contact tracing is still underway for a majority of the cases that tested positive last week.
At the SGA meeting last night, dean of students Lindsey Taylor spoke to students regarding the new spike in cases and what the college was doing to prevent the spread moving forward.
First, Taylor said that administration is “freezing” personal bubbles. Students will not be able to change their personal bubbles for the next few weeks. Taylor stated that changing bubbles does not have to mean changing your bubble application. Students can choose not to interact with members of their personal bubbles without officially removing them from their personal bubble group on the Berry Housing website.
“You don’t have to drop them from your bubble before you can say you don’t want them in your space,” Taylor said.
The bubble application will open soon to allow students who had not yet created a bubble, to find students and make their own personal bubble.
“We have got to be diligent on reducing who we are interacting with,” Taylor said.
The college will also begin testing of all students next week. In an email sent to students last night, testing will be from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 and Oct. 5 to Oct. 6. Students will be assigned a date for testing, but will be allowed to pick a time from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to complete their testing.
Testing will occur in the Cage Arena and contact tracers are asking students to create a list of all contacts they might have two days prior to their testing date. For more updated information about testing, students should check out the email from the President’s Office.
According to Taylor, the department of public health is partnering with Berry to provide the tests for the college, therefore it is not costing the college anything to test students.
As the college begins testing next, Taylor said that they are expecting another rise in cases.
“A large number of positives means a large number of quarantines,” Taylor said.
Next, Taylor encouraged students to be smart about following COVID-19 guidelines. As the semester moves to the half way point next week, Taylor reminded students that they must keep actively following the rules in order to stop the spread and stay safe.
“If we want to keep the second half of the semester in-person then we have to tighten up,” Taylor said.
Any student who knowingly broke COVID-19 guidelines by participating in events or activities off campus will also be brought forward to the conduct board, according to Taylor. They will face disciplinary actions for knowingly breaking these guidelines.
Because the spread of COVID-19 has been primarily from cases that originated at Berry rather then in the Rome community at large, Taylor students will still be able to leave campus, aside from during curfewed hours over the weekend. This is subject to change if it becomes evident that students are catching COVID-19 from off-campus and bringing it back with them.
Another plan the college is considering is a shelter-in-place for students. As Taylor reminded students, the steps the college takes moving forward are determined on a week-by-week basis. She was confident that students will remain on campus to finish off the semester.
Taylor said Berry is preparing to shelter in place as a community. This would mean students would be asked to perform remote learning from their residence halls, faculty will be sent home to teach and commuter students will be asked to stay home and perform remote learning.
In the event of this happening, Taylor reminded students that more details would follow, but at the moment, the college is only considering this if the number of quarantined students rose too high. She did not specify the exact requirements it would take to push the college into a shelter-in-place state.
Students can receive the most updated information about the current state of the college in regards to COVID-19 through the weekly email update from the President’s Office and at future SGA meetings.
Taylor also announced at the meeting that the college is looking into changing the layout of the case tracker on the Berry Healthy Together page. Administration understands that most students would like more updated information on the contact tracer that accurately describes how many students are in quarantine at the current moment they are checking the tracker.
“When we had low numbers, it was easy and simple to color code and map back to what cases were related to what,” Taylor said. “We are now in this web of information that is impossible to accurately keep track of all the different connections.”
The Berry College contact tracing department created an Instagram page for students to receive information about common questions students have about contact tracing. Their Instagram page states that account is “verified by the Berry Health Center” and will work to provide accurate information for students. They also encourage students to DM questions to their account by contact tracing. Their Instagram page is @bc_contacttracing.
Both Viking Fusion and future print issues of the Carrier will continue coverage of the college and updates related to COVID-19 on both our Instagram pages and at vikingfusion.com.