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5 Gettysburg College students test positive for COVID-19, school says

The positive results came from a mass-testing protocol implemented by the college when students moved back in to campus residences, the school said.
Credit: FOX43
Gettysburg College

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Five students at Gettysburg College have tested positive for COVID-19, the school said Friday on its website.

The positive tests were discovered as part of the college's mass-testing protocol during move-in, according to Bill Lafferty, assistant vice president for college life, who shared the news in a letter to the campus community.

"This return of positive cases was entirely predicted based on the number of students being tested, and we should expect more positive cases in the next few days as we complete our testing protocol," Lafferty said. "Please keep in mind that our baseline testing approach of all students was intended to identify positive cases and isolate them quickly from the campus community."

Lafferty said the students, who were not identified in order to protect their privacy, have either been sent home or are isolating in a designated space at the campus.

"Those persons who may have come into 'close contact' with these students are being directly notified, encouraged to self-quarantine and remain alert for COVID-19 symptoms —fever and cough, fever and shortness of breath, or a combination of all three," Lafferty said.

According to the CDC, close contact is defined as: 

  • being within approximately 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time (about 15 minutes)
  • close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case - or - having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on, sharing utensils, keyboard, writing instruments). 

Close contacts who are not symptomatic should self-monitor and contact their healthcare provider if symptoms arise, Lafferty said. Close contacts who are symptomatic should self-isolate and practice physical distancing. 

"In the future, the College will assess each report of a COVID-19 positive case individually, based on the circumstances at the time, and decide whether the report represents a broader health and safety concern to the campus community," Lafferty said. "In that case, a notification will be sent informing students who are currently on campus and all employees.'

Not every single report of a positive COVID-19 case will warrant an individual immediate notification, Lafferty said.

However, he added, the community will be informed of any significant updates or changes in cases, such as multiple reported cases, signs of community spread, etc. 

Regular updates of positive COVID-19 cases on campus will be provided on a recurring basis via a general email to campus and on the college’s reopening website, Lafferty said.

According to CDC Risk Categories, the risk level is “low” for those in general contact with persons who test positive.

 According to the CDC, persons coming into general contact with a symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 test case does not meet the definition of “close contact” and is considered a low risk level.

All members of the Gettysburg College community are encouraged to take steps to protect themselves, Lafferty said.

Those steps include:

  • Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and water, especially before eating or preparing food, after going to the bathroom and after being around someone who is sick. 
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you are unable to wash with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses and utensils.
  • Covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue

RELATED: Department of Health provides update on coronavirus: 829 new positives bring statewide total to 122,950

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