Two students test positive for Covid-19, 17 quarantined

By James Finn

2 students tested positive for Covid-19 after 506 people were tested on Monday, the first positive results among students since the beginning of the semester. (Benjy Renton)

Two Middlebury students tested positive for Covid-19 according to early results from Covid-19 testing held Monday, the school announced in an email Tuesday morning. 

The cases were the first among students at the college since two tested positive in early September during entry testing. They were therefore the first two cases acquired in Middlebury rather than before arrival at the college. In total, the college has had four student cases to-date this semester.

“This news underscores the importance of strictly abiding by Middlebury’s campus quarantine rules as well as Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s order restricting social gatherings,” Mark Peluso, Middlebury’s head physician, said in the email.

Peluso said the two students had been moved to isolation. The school completed contract tracing this evening and moved 15 student contacts into quarantine, according to the Covid-19 dashboard. Two students were previously placed into quarantine after contacting someone off campus who tested positive, putting the total number of students in quarantine at 17. 

Colleges around Vermont have had spikes in cases and increased their Covid-19-related precautions, as Vermont has a surge of the virus. The University of Vermont on Monday reported 35 new cases that nearly doubled its total for the semester, and Northern Vermont University suspended all events and athletic practices last Friday after two students tested positive.

Vermont set several single-day case records last week, with a high of 122 cases reported Nov. 15. Officials at Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference Tuesday announced plans to ramp up statewide testing, and warned that new cases in the state could rise by as much as 50% in the next six weeks. 

Middlebury administrators sent another email to students on Tuesday evening to share that an additional 1,100 tests were performed throughout the day Tuesday, and to urge caution. Peluso reminded students not to jump to conclusions simply because they might know a student who tested positive, or were a contact of someone who had. 

As we noted in the earlier announcement, simply knowing a person who has Covid-19 or having interacted with a person who is in quarantine does not mean you are a contact,” he said in the later email.

The college placed all students under “campus quarantine” last Friday, preventing them from entering the town or Addison County. On Tuesday, Peluso said that campus operations would continue as planned despite the new cases. 

Most tests performed Monday and Tuesday were part of Middlebury’s exit testing plan, which offered all students a test on a voluntary basis on one of those days as they prepare to leave campus Nov. 21.

Departure testing is not mandatory. Peluso said in Tuesday’s initial email that “we have about 300 open appointments” for departure testing on Tuesday afternoon, and encouraged students to take advantage of them.