NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is dealing with the fallout of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Flagg Townhouse apartments.
On Tuesday, MCLA's vice president for strategic initiatives informed the campus community that the residence halls had been the source of eight positive COVID-19 tests over the last 10 days.
On Wednesday, the school moved to a "temporary targeted lockdown" of the Flagg townhouse, ordering its 242 residents to stay in place. MCLA also closed its fitness center and suspended all intercollegiate athletics until further notice.
Residents of the Ashland Street apartments will be required to participate in classes remotely and only leave their residences to pick up food from MCLA's dining services, seek medical attention or participate in the college's COVID-19 testing protocols, according to Wednesday's announcement.
For non-Flagg residents, classes will continue to be in person.
"Students that violate the lockdown measures will be accountable to the MCLA Trailblazer Agreement to the fullest extent," read the memo, signed by Vice president for Strategic Initiatives Gina Puc.
On Tuesday, Gina Puc said that all students in the complex would be tested for the novel coronavirus, and she credited students' social behavior with causing the uptick in positive tests.
"It is clear from contact tracing that the classroom and our hybrid model is not the source of transmission," Puc wrote in memo on the college's website.
"The most common source of transmission we are seeing from contact tracing is close social contact in settings where masking, social distance, and other CDC mitigation measures are not being followed consistently. Students living together in apartments, not wearing masks, sharing food or drink, and gathering/socializing in areas that don’t allow for 6 feet of distance are the common denominator in the case patterns we are seeing."
Puc's message cautioned against "pandemic fatigue" and told the college community that it needed to remain vigilant in order to complete the spring semester.
"As mentioned in my message last week, an increase in cases has been seen across Berkshire County and in the state over the last couple of weeks as some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted," Puc wrote. "We still need everyone's continued compliance in following social distancing and other CDC recommended mitigation efforts in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19."
Prior to Wednesday's tests in the Flagg Townhouse community, MCLA's positivity rate had been running at .14 percent for the spring semester -- five cases discovered in 3,614 tests.
On the other hand, with three positives in the college's test program (not counting at least five positive cases that were discovered outside the program), the seven-day positivity rate was .67 (three out of 477 tests).
Statewide, the seven-day positivity rate was 1.93 percent for the same period; North Adams' most recent 14-day positivity rate was .33 percent.
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