Since the start of the 2020 Fall semester, Rollins College has operated under a hybrid plan that allows students who choose to do so to engage in some in-person classes and activities while abiding by the Tars Promise, which commits students to health and safety guidelines both on and off campus. While the school’s COVID-19 mitigation plan has been largely effective this academic year, the college is currently experiencing a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases among on- and off-campus students.
As of Monday, February 15, there were 16 total students in quarantine or isolation. By Friday, February 19, that number rose to 108 and there was a campus-wide positivity rate of 5.3%. A week later, on Friday, February 26, the number of isolated and quarantined students sits at 117 with a positivity rate of 8.22% as reported on the college’s COVID-19 dashboard. According to an email distributed to the campus community by Provost Susan Singer on Saturday, February 20, the surge in cases came as the result of “a recent confluence of activities that were unaligned with the Tars Promise.”
Singer shared that as a result of increased COVID-19 risk, which is labeled as “moderate” on the public dashboard, the college’s “Wellness Center is stretched to the limit providing testing, as well as overseeing the physical and mental health care [the] isolated and quarantined students need.” The Wellness Center was fully booked with proactive testing of specific groups and clusters this week.
While correspondence from the college’s administrative team has not pointed to any specific event as the likely cause of this upswing in COVID-19 risk, there was concern in the campus community surrounding a recent Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) event. The college’s fraternity organizations were permitted to hold in-person recruitment on campus this month, after which photos were posted to social media that reflected large groups of the organizations’ members posing close together with many of their masks either worn improperly or not at all.
The school placed a temporary pause on in-person FSL and athletic activities and closed the campus’s athletic facilities in an effort to reduce the risk of the virus spreading further. In-person classes, dining, and other events were unaffected by the pause.
The current campus-wide positivity rate (8.22%) surpasses the 5% rate limit that the college agreed to with the Sunshine State Conference. According to another message from Provost Singer sent Thursday, February 25, it is expected that the rate will not drop below 5% again for two weeks, so athletic competitions against other schools along with FSL in-person events will both remain paused through March 8.
However, the college is reopening athletic facilities and allowing athletic practices to resume as of Friday, February 26. The college administration feels that the transmission risk is low in these situations.
The college plans to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and weeks. For more information on Rollins’ operations during the pandemic, visit the college’s COVID-19 page.