Campus returns to modified Phase One as Vermont Covid-19 cases surge

By Charlie Keohane

In accordance with Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order on Friday limiting in-person activities, the college restricted social gatherings to housemates as of 10 pm Saturday. (Emmanuel Tamrat)

Students received an escalating series of emails informing them of an unexpected campus quarantine and new restrictions on social gatherings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of their penultimate week on campus.

With fewer than 24 hours of notice, students were confined to campus as of 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13. The Friday email mandated that students only have social gatherings with those they live with, a further restriction from the “four close contacts” rule implemented earlier in the semester. In-person classes, athletic practices, the athletic center, dining halls and libraries are allowed to continue operations. Students can also still eat distanced in dining halls together and study in classrooms or lounges.

Failure to comply with the new restrictions can lead to consequences including removal from campus for spring semester, according to the Nov. 13 email.

The college communicated some initial information about new gathering restrictions a few hours after Gov. Phil Scott issued an executive order limiting gatherings and recreational activities in response to rising cases across the state. The college’s new gathering restrictions officially went into effect at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14. 

The emails announced the cancellation of the in-person Feb Celebration planned for Nov. 21. An alternative impromptu event was eventually held on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 14

The college offered optional pre-departure Covid-19 testing for students on Monday and Tuesday. According to the Middlebury College Covid-19 reporting dashboard, three students are currently in isolation after testing positive during optional testing on Monday and Tuesday and 24 student-contacts are currently in quarantine. 

Associate Dean of Student Life AJ Place emphasized that students are approaching the finish line, but must remain cautious as the cases increase in Vermont. 

“I think the biggest takeaway students should have is to continue to be vigilant and keep doing the methods we know work (face coverings, physical distancing, and good hand hygiene),” Place said in an email to The Campus.